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The Love In John Donne Poems English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2283 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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John Donne (1572-1631) was born in London to a Roman Catholic family, but changed to Anglicanism during the 1950s (Fowkes x-xi). He is an English metaphysical poet, writer, and theologian. He makes poems focused on death, love, and sex. In addition, he writes a wide range of secular and religious. Besides, he has many subjects focusing of love, the pain of parting, and the exhilaration of sex. These poems show the suppressed energy in Donne’s characteristics and its source the intellectual, spiritual, and emotional conflicts, which john passed through out his life. Donne’s love poetry is a very complex phenomenon. Nevertheless, he has two strains: the strain of dialectic and the strain of realism (Grierson 84). He writes about love as an actual experience in all its moods, even in gay or angry. With regard to, Donne relates to 16th century the era in which all poets are Petrarchan, otherwise, he challenges his time and breaks off the Petrarchan tradition. He breaks the tradition because his poems with specific temper, imagery, rhythm and colors. John writes many poems about love one of his collections is Songs and Sonnets. The majority of this book talks about love, which is addressed to an imagined hearer. He establishes a metaphysical relationship between body and soul. Donne’s love poems characterize with truth. He shows the truth through the passions that he represents them existed in human experience. Therefore, he makes his poem equal to real world. Still, his love poems are less real than that of the Petrarchans. In the same manner, Donne’s poetry is not about the marriage and adultery, whereas, it is about the difference between love and lust. He mentions love in different types and shapes such as beauty, betrayal, and death.

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John Donne poems are not about the lust or desire; therefore, they are not about chivalric, but intellectual love in general. The greatness of Donne’s love poetry is due to the fact his experience of the passion range from its lowest to its highest reaches (Bennett 142). Sometimes, he shows desires but not the whole poem about this desire. For example, “Air and Angels” is a type of a love poem does not empty from a desire; still it talks about love with other idea. “Air and Angels” has an argument between two types of love: the metaphysical and the rhetorical. The metaphysical shows the motion in “Air and Angels.” This poem seems often to defeat its readers; not because of its difficult argument, but, because readers do not recognize the idea of it. Donne, in this poem, is placing a very high value upon “pressuring some detachment at the heart of an emotional involvement.”(Sanders 89) It is an open image that sometimes the reader can see the detachment as a betrayal of love. In addition, Donne shows the implication that neither the mind, nor the man can rest to leave this woman unattached by his desire to her. Any way, in the first stanza, the speaker addresses his beloved; he describes the beauty of his beloved that he always looks for it. In lines (11-14) he gives a beautiful metaphorical image for his mistress, he portrays her beauty as an angel:

And therefore what thou wert, and who,

        I bid Love ask, and now

That it assume thy body, I allow,

And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.

Those lines are an example of a Petrarchan era that shows the woman as an object. Similarly, he looks and searches for this type of beauty, which is angelic. Referring to line (8), “Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do” the speaker argues to a flesh and blood woman that her “nothingness,” must be embodied by means of love. He compares this embodiment to the habitation by his soul of his body (Salomon 13). Also, he shows the irony in “nothing do,” the tone is flexible to take this love with that woman’s beauty has fobbed him off.

In the second stanza, Donne satisfies that love is more pleasing to any woman than worship of her beauty. Therefore, he finds the beauty does not last as love. According to lines (15-20):

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,

    And so more steadily to have gone,

    With wares which would sink admiration,

I saw I had love’s pinnace overfraught ;

    Thy every hair for love to work upon

Is much too much ; some fitter must be sought ;

Here the image of love is so beautiful, in which, he says that his problem was that his love had no body; but now, his problem is that she has a beautiful body that he himself cannot imagine it. whereas, the next lines (21-25) he shows the pure love that he finds in his beloved appearance.

Then as an angel face and wings

Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,

    So thy love may be my love’s sphere ;

        Just such disparity

As is ‘twixt air’s and angels’ purity,

‘Twixt women’s love, and men’s, will ever be.

he shows a problem about physical love. The last six lines are the solution which show love must be “pure” between the two souls. In line (27) “As is ‘twixt air’s and angels’ purity” Salomon says that “the speaker’s love being more pure than the lady’s as an “angel” is more pure that its airy embodiment (13). In lines (23-25):

Then as an angel face and wings

Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,

    So thy love may be my love’s sphere;

Those lines an image of wooing to his love, he sees her as the air-body angel, which confines the spirit in earth, as this woman is a resting place for him. In final line “Twixt women’s love, and men’s, will ever be.” It is an image of love between women and men, which will stay forever because they are united. To conclude the discussion of “Air and Angels,” Donne discovers that her beauty is dazzling. Therefore, he must work very hard to get her angelic love. In the metaphysical view, “angels appeared to men as a vapor” (Martz 171). In that case, he shows the Petrarchan point of view through the superior image that he draws to his beloved. He portrays her beauty with angelic, pure. Again in the previous line, which has mentioned, he asks for her love by coming down from her angelic status, and be one. According to john, love is exciting experience and love poems are the communication with others to feel in this excitement. Despite of the fear in falling in love due to the torment that one feels, but since love is peaceful and restful, there is no fear to feel in love. Donne is a great love poet because he has the ability to write his experience of love and let the other feel it with him.

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Donne in his collection Songs and Sonnets shows another type of love. In his poem “Witchcraft by a Picture,” reveals the obscure between the two characters in the poem. His poem reflects his era which he relates for it, although, he was not following the Petrarchan system. Therefore, he intends to show the bad side of love in the betrayal image of a man who leaves his woman alone, this picture differs from the Petrarchan because the don’t show the man in a cold-heart image. The betrayal reveals in the lover who bewitches his beloved and he fears to fall in love with her. Therefore, he has broken up with her because he accuses her that she is a witch and bewitches him. In the first stanza, lines (1-3):

I FIX mine eye on thine, and there 

    Pity my picture burning in thine eye; 

My picture drown’d in a transparent tear,

Those lines reveal how was the woman astonished this broken up. Here is a visual image, portrays in the “tears” of this woman that this speaker was the reason for them. The metaphorical image portrays in that the speaker sees the reflection of his picture in her eyes that full of tears “burning” as someone burns a paper to be able to forget. Despite all of that, Greg Bentley when he comments on this poem and mentions that in the medieval era, they symbolized for a witch with non-human, and they was beating her until she dies. In addition, the witch cannot cry, unless if there is a priest or cleric. If she does then she is innocent and if she does not then she is guilty (16). In these previous lines, Donne makes the woman cries because she is innocent from the accusation that her beloved accuses her with it. As well, the word “pity” has an ambiguous meaning: the first meaning the speaker wants his beloved sympathy, and the second he feels pity in his mistress because of what he did with her (Bentley 15-16). Besides in the third line “my picture drowned in a transparent tear” has an ambiguity. It can be that the woman tricks the speaker with her tears to catch his attention and destroy him. In addition, the second reading can be that her tears are genuine that she is not a witch because she hurts honestly hurt by her lover. Then Donne establishes that the lover is a betrayal.

In the same manner, the second stanza has other images shows the betrayal of the fearful lover. Donne starts with “I have drunk the sweet salt tears,” this line is a reminding to her tears that “burning” and “drowned.” It is a gustatory image the lover tastes his mistress tears and relishes with her misery. Then, he completes with second line “and though thou pour more, I’ll depart,” this visual image reveals the rudeness of this lover who although to his relish, he wants to leave her alone, because he knows that her tears are powerful. Since he will not be next to her, his picture will not reflect again and affect on him. However, Donne puts another ambiguity in line (11) “that I can be endamaged by that art,” the ambiguity appears in word “art.” Firstly, he means that she has tricks art that supports speaker’s accusation of being her mistress witch. Secondly, he means that her tears are genuine and support the woman innocence (Bentley 17). Although, the speaker can remove himself from her tears and depart. Still he cannot remove himself from her heart, because she loves him honestly, and she cannot stifle her tears and sincere love. In the end, Donne’s imagines the bad side of love that leads to harm one of the lovers heart, because of cowardice and betray like the man who rejects his mistress.

Donne varies in his Songs and Sonnets, he writes about love in different ways such as beauty, betrayal, and now about death. Donne has attached the idea of death with love in his poem “The Expiration.” The title of the poem gives the whole explanation of the poem. He has shortened his feelings of departing in this poem. He draws beautiful images about death and apart. In the first stanza, for example, he portrays the picture when the speaker feels in heartburn due to his beloved leaves him because of her death. In the first six lines:

SO, so, break off this last lamenting kiss,

    Which sucks two souls, and vapors both away ;

Turn, thou ghost, that way, and let me turn this,

    And let ourselves be night our happiest day.

We ask none leave to love; nor will we owe

    Any so cheap a death as saying, “Go.”

The speaker says he will sacrifice with his soul to his love, although, he imagines himself as a murder because he will leave her alone. “We ask none leave to love; nor will we owe/ Any so cheap a death as saying, “Go.”” This line is an evidence for the previous discussion, he portrays that the speaker does not choose to leave her but the death takes the soul very easily. In the second line, there is a metaphorical image, he describes the kiss with a lollipop, which sucks the water and vapors it. Beyond the conception of separation, Donne plays with the idea of death through rejection or love domination. “He does not stop at the idea of the beloved as killing through neglect, but often to picture her as a murder.” (Bernhoft 2) To emphasize this idea, in line (12) “Being double dead, going, and bidding, “Go.”” He says that killing him is impossible because he is being double dead. Donne uses the repetition in the first line “So, so” a significance of death and depart.

To conclude, Donne is a brilliant poet, he has the ability to write his experience of love and let the other feel it with him. He varies a lot in his collection poems especially in the poems of Songs and Sonnets. His love poetry is a record of moods. the moods of love, desire, death, betrayal, and other moods. He tries to show the metaphysical relationship between soul and body. Even though, he shows the sexual love in his Holy Sonnets because he does not consider it as a sin. In general, he talks about spiritual love; he has several of moods and sentiment due to his capacity of experience. He shows the beauty, death, betray and in those previous poems that has been discussed. Donne’s poetry is simple to satisfy. In his poems, the reader can find a series of passion. Those passions that Donne’s talks about are comprehensive every problem in life. As a reason, his poetry has a competence, in which it can “make a man feels about woman, scorn, sensual, delight, and the peace and security of mutual love (Bennett 115).



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