Looking at John Donne from a different perspective

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  • Created by: Olivia
  • Created on: 06-06-10 12:52

Donne's likeness to the poet Ovid.

Ovid was a classic Ancient Roman poet, who often wrote elegies such as The Art of Love, The Cure for Love, and The Metamorphoses (Otherwise known as The Tranformations).

Donne's 'Love's Growth' and 'Love's Alchemy' can be seen as Ovidian, in their focus on love and their questioning of love's power. In 'Love's Growth', the speaker ponders on the nature of his love. "I scarcely believed my love to be so pure ... I swore my love was infinite/ If spring make it more." Lovers in the Renaissance and in Shakespearean plays were often associated with nature, the changing seasons, and the harmony of spring to winter. The idea of growing because of one's love is a poignant and poetic subject, which takes the rapid pace of Donne' physical, ****** poems and the neo-platonism of his spiritual love poetry. Thus, the lovers in this poem are improved by their love, because they are beginning to realise their individual growth and personalities, and the reality of love, that it is not so pure and undying. Love can cure and heal in Love's Growth.

In 'Love's Alchemy', Donne outwits his reader. The poem is not a transformation of love at all, but rather a discovery of cynicism about marriage and the relationships between men and women. "I have loved, got, and told," fools to reader into thinking the speaker improved by love. The abrupt misogyny of "hope not for mind in women" ends this view.

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Why is there a constant fear, or obsession, with d

Typically, we would look to 'Death be not proud', a sonnet where the speaker ridicules and personifies Death, till the fear of it becomes overrated and silly. This attitude is not necessarily the case in his love poetry.

In Elegy I "Jealousy," the affair between a married woman and another man is plagued with death and disease. The death of her husband, "his breath short and quick", is grotesque and excessive, but comes as a welcome release. Although the poem may be morally questionable, the speaker who is having this affair is not without morals. He is aware that, now the husband is dead, his mistress is financially and sexually free (which is comparible to Lady Sneerwell's position in 'The School for Scandal'). He is also aware of the guilt of continuing the affair, evident in his pleading tone, "Must we usurp his own bed, nor kiss and play in his house as we did before?" In some ways, the poem 'Jealousy' is a warped, bleak version of 'The Anniversary', in that kingdoms, realms, and rooms are no longer spiritual entrances to a new, undiscovered world. They are physically barred from happiness, and are chained to this endless cycle of guilt. Unlike 'The Anniversary', there are limitations to human love.

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Fear and obsession of death continued ...

This is not to say, however, that man cannot overcome death. In fact it is death which reminds the lovers in Donne's poems about the essence of time. Although 'The Flea' is more of a sexual conquest, rather than one of love, it is relevent to the question. "Just so much honour, when thou yieldst to me/Will waste as this flea's death took life from thee." The flea is an absurd, and highly comic, conceit to compare to one's love or lust for someone, but it also highlights the serious nature of time. In this case, the speaker is quite revolutionary in realising that time will yield for no one, and not even love is exempted from it. Perhaps it is a brutal, unromantic view of love, but it is nevertheless the persona's most realistic view of time. In doing so, 'honour', a highly praised feminine trait, and 'virtue' seem futile in this apocolyptic, rapid poem. Even if the speaker's object is sex.

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A comparison of 'Lovers Infiniteness' and 'Batter

Readings of Donne's secular and religious poetry is often divided, but these two poems share an inextricable similarity in illustrating the physical and spiritual desire for love, and the need to be loved.

In 'Lovers Infiniteness', the speaker is so infactuated with his love that he creates unrealistic expectations of his lover. "If yet I have not all thy love/ Dear, I shall never have it all." The speaker's desperateness, his needy personality, is so overwhelming that he cannot understand the physical bound of his love. Therefore, he creates an extortionate, idealistic expectation which his mistress cannot live up to, and it destroys him.

In 'Batter my heart', the speaker cannot identify the physical or spiritual bounds of his love for God, and his need to be loved by God. "Except you entrall me, never shall be free/ Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me." This is evident in his incoherent, irrgular meter and his constant use of virginal and sexual paradoxes. He wants both the physical and spiritual possession of God, and cannot understand why this cannot be, or why it cannot be reciprocated. His last line, referenced above, is irrational and God, as an unseeable, holy figure is unattainable.

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