The metaphysical poets were segregated in the seventeenth century to form a new and distinct style of poetry that employed immaculate wit, complex metaphors and luminous imagery. John Donne’s poetry is no exception to the form and thematic volume of the metaphysicals. Donne explores ideas in a manner which some readers find confronting and enlightening through relentless use of metaphysical conceits and his direct address to an individual or god. Donne confronts and enlightens seventeenth century readers with his elaborate perspective on love and his perception of death. Although these are two dissimilar subjects, they are interwoven in many of Donne’s poems which includes, ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,’ ‘The Flea,’ and ‘Death be not proud.’ However, these poems also describe themes that are both enlightening and confronting in the contemporary context.
The theme of love in Donne poetry is developed around two different strands. This incudes the sexual or covetousness nature and the spiritual and holy nature. Donne explores both these ideas in ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ and ‘The Flea.’
Donne labels love as a spiritual and sacred element that is eminent during life and after it in ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. ‘So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear floods, nor sigh-tempests move; were profanation of our joys to tell the laity of our love.’ The ‘laity’ describes the collective Christian believers and delivers an allusion to the religious significance of the love present between the persona and their lover. The ‘melting’ of the lovers describes the change of state that is a direct allusion to the death or separation between the lovers and/or their souls. This comparison to death conveys the holy and spiritual elevation of the love shared in the poem as the heavenly and non-living spirits are strongly valued by the Christian religion and by seventeenth century readers due to their deep connection to faith and religious conviction. The persona’s separation to his lover is compared to death again in the opening lines, ‘as virtuous men pass mildly away, and whisper to their souls to go.’ Similarly to the way in which ‘virtuous men’ pass away the persona wishes for their separation to be absent of ‘tear floods, nor sigh-tempests.’ Donne encapsulates this holy representation of love through the connection of the lover’s souls. ‘Our two souls therefore, which are one, though I must go, endure not yet a breach, but an expansion.’ The connection between the souls of the lover’s portrays the idealistic representation of pure love and is an enlightenment component in the poem as it strongly composes a holy connection between man and woman that is developed beyond the physicality of their relationship. Even death cannot intervene and separate the lovers because when the soul is separated from the body it acts as the vessel of love. This is illustrated in the opening lines of the poem, ‘and whisper to their souls to go, whilst some of their sad friends do say, the breath goes now……’ Instead of complete separation, the persona and his lover are connected by there souls, ‘our two souls therefore, which are one…’ The mixing of the souls is suggested by Donne’s metaphoric conceit of the similarities between the soul and liquid. Donne makes use of this metaphor to describe the soul as something that can be ‘melted,’ however, unlike liquids the soul does not make any noise when it is moved, ‘nor sigh tempests move,’ and is something more direct than liquid, such as direct a direct sublimation into vapour form. The mixing of two liquids such as oil and water infers the connection between the souls of the lovers; although they have not become one at the highest elemental form they cannot be completely separated.
The hyperbolic statements in ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,’ expresses the magnitude of the lovers relationship through comparison between them and the celestial...