John Donne’s Love Poetry: Critical Analysis
In Donne’s love poetry, he certainly sought to comprehend and to experience love in every respect, both theoretically and practically through all his love poetry he wrote. In the poem “ The Flea” written by John Donne he describes how the speaker in the poem is trying to convince his female lover to sleep with him, he argues in this quote:
Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Though know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, or shame, or loss of maidenhead,
Meaning the speaker is trying to explain to his lover if a flea can suck blood from them both and mingled the two in one, surely it will be fine if their bodies mingled together and do the same in a similar fashion way. In stanza two the speaker is insisting and trying to win his lover now that he has compare a flea sucking both their blood to having sexual intercourse and telling his lover to not kill the flea but she does like he describes in the following quote;
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, nay more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed and marriage temple is;
Meaning the flea has a strong religious imagery which is a symbol of the marriage bed and the marriage temple describing their togetherness is more than marriage as the speaker describes during this quote: “Where we almost, nay more than married are” (11).
In the devotional works by John Donne’s, he wrote many poems about how he examined love from every conceivable angle, experienced its joys, and embraced its sorrows. Donne had a way of using his words to describe love in a lighthearted way and not in traditional voices like other poets did. He actually became love’s poet philosopher by describing in his poetry his personal experiences and imaginations about love. The poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” is about spiritual peace and Donne describes and proves how love is part of life and without love life is useless and barren. Donne describes how the speaker begins in line 1 how “virtuous men pass mildly away” leaving their friends and lover. He explains how his soul and his lover’s minds are unified and that physical separation will never break their bond. He quotes:
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat
In the “Holy Sonnet 10” written by John Donne is another of his most devotional works that is about death. Donne describes how the speaker should not be afraid or fear death at all. In this quote he describes how death is weak and no one should fear it:
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
Meaning in this quote Donne describes how death has no pride or power over one. Donne describes at the end of the sonnet in the following quotes:“One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die” (13-14). Meaning how death has no power if there is a belief in life after you die.
John Donne is an love’s poet-philosopher who converted himself to the English church. But given the shape of Donne’s career, it is no surprise that his poems and prose works display an astonishing variety of attitudes, viewpoints, and feelings on the great subjects of love and religion. Even until this day we do not know the time and circumstances for most of Donne’s verses, but it is clear that many of his finest religious poems predate his ordination, and it is possible that he continued to add to the love poems known as his “ songs and sonnets” after he entered the English church. John Donne’s poems are different from the ones we have read before by Sidney and Shakespeare, because Donne’s poems are mainly about love and how Donne sought to comprehend and to experience love in every respect, both theoretically and practically through all his love poetry he wrote. Donne’s poems are not suffering from unrequited love as in poems by Sydney. Sydney wrote more poems about sorrow and suffering like death, and war. He did write about love but they were about love that was not wanted or forced. Shakespeare they do have in common some poems because he also wrote about love but not as deeply as Donne did his and mostly all of the poems Donne wrote where about love.
In the biography of Izaak Walton of the saint- liked John Donne he introduces Donne’s remarkable preparations for his death. Walton describes how Donne is taking his last leave of his beloved study; and being sensible of his hourly decay, retired himself to his bedchamber and saying his last words to his siderable love ones.Walton also explain how he had investigated and studied all Donne’s collected sermons, and how he admired his devotional works such as his poems, letters, and papers Donne wrote before he died. Walton is making Donne look like a saint by saying: “ It is no accident that this biography, published as religious tensions were growing acute and civil war loomed, represented Donne as a “saint” of Anglicanism”(975). Walton showed an image of Donne before his death in 1631, Donne posed in the shroud in which he would be buried. The resulting painting, reproduced in the 1633 edition of Donne’s collected poetry as the engraving shown, it served as a model for the stone effigy of Donne in St. Paul’s Cathedral. This image made him look more saintly, because of the way he was dressed and the way he posed for the image that was being drawn.
Walton describes how Donne was buried in the St. Paul’s Church which he describes that Donne “had appointed for that use some years before his death”(978) and which he passed daily to pay his public devotions to his almighty God. Walton describes how the next day after Donne was buried, one of his friend from the many admirers of his virtue wrote an epitaph with coal on the wall over his grave:
Reader! I am to let thee Know,
Donne’s body only lies below;
For, could the grave his soul comprise,
Earth would be richer than the skies!
Meaning he may be gone but his body stays to give this earth more knowledge to keep going with his legacy he has left behind to other poets that may yet to come. At the closing passage, Walton describes the dissolution of Donne’s body to “a small quantity of Christian dust” and vowing “But I shall see it reanimated” (980) has a quiet force and grandeur to match Donne’s own Meditations.
- Donne, John. “The Flea.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp.923.
- Donne, John. “The Good Morrow.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp.923-924.
- Donne,John. “The Sun Rising” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp.926.
- Donne, John. “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp.935-936.
- Walton, Izaak. “Introduction.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp. 976-980.
- Walton, Izaak. “From The Life of Dr. John Donne.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et. Al. 10th edition, vol. A, Norton, 2018, pp. 974-976.
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