In the poem “The Ecstasy,” John Donne explores the meaning of true love by illustrating the spiritual union and the metaphysical experience surrounding love. In addition, he approves of sex and treats it as a beautiful, unifying act, though he does not consider it as important as the union of the souls. While some may interpret this poem to be seductive in nature, Donne does not actually describe the physical actions that characterize sex that could stimulate sexual desire; he merely expresses its beauty and significance. Although sex plays an important role in any relationship, Donne feels that the true power and significance of true love lies in the union of souls.
Donne spends the first three stanzas introducing both experiences of love: physical sex, which he introduces metaphorically, and the metaphysical experience when two lovers’ souls first begin to unite. He begins the poem by mentioning a “pregnant bank” that “swell[s] up,” or a river that is overflowing; however, his choice of words here, “pregnant,” already tells the reader that this poem will concern sexuality to some degree. However, in the third stanza, the reflections that the two lovers see in each other’s eyes are the only “propagation” that he speaks of early on in the poem. Donne writes: “And pictures in our eyes to get/Was all our propagation” (9-12). Because Donne writes that the pictures were “all” their propagation, he draws the reader away from thoughts of physical sex and places the emphasis on the metaphysics of the poem without completely abandoning the theme of sex and reproduction which appears later on. He does not refer to propagation in the literal sense but in a more metaphysical sense, as though the reflections are the offspring of their spiritual union. In addition, Donne chooses to use the violet as his symbolic flower. He writes: “A pregnant bank swelled up to rest/The violet’s reclining head” (2-3). The... [continues]
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