Discuss John Donne's Use of Conceits

Topics: Metaphysical poets, John Donne, Poetry Pages: 4 (1419 words) Published: July 11, 2012
John Donne is arguably the most famous metaphysical poet. His works focus on love, religion and sexuality. However it is how he composed his poetry that allows us to dub his work as metaphysical. Metaphysical poets used various techniques that where novel and daring. Illicit love, conceits, puns and broad satire of relevant topical politics. This essay will answer how donne’s work is metaphysical, focusing on his use of conceits in the flea and A Valediction: forbidding Mourning. The Norton Anthology of English Literature defines the "conceits" of poetics as metaphors that are intricately woven into the verse, often used to express satire, puns, or deeper meanings within the poem, and to display the poet's own cunning with words. The conceits of John Donne are said to "leap continually in a restless orbit from the personal to the cosmic and back again." The outward nature of Donne's poem The Flea appears to be a love poem; dedication from a male suitor to his lady of honor, who refuses to yield to his lustful desires. A closer look at the poem reveals that this suitor is actually arguing a point to his lady: that the loss of innocence does not constitute a loss of honor. The poet begins his argument by condemning the act of intercourse as a shameful sin. He also belittles it, claiming that if the same effects can be realized within the body of a tiny flea, then the act itself cannot hold tremendous importance. In any case, the act is out of the question in the realm of reality, since the two people in the poem do not appear to be married, so sexual union can only be committed symbolically. The argument then shifts to a different position, where the flea suddenly becomes the entire world of the lovers; the symbolic becomes reality. The act of intercourse loses its importance as the subject in question, and now the loss of all innocence is addressed. There is obviously some action taken by the poet's mistress between the second and third stanzas, as the next...
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