The Bait - Poem Analysis

Topics: Metaphysical poets, John Donne, Stanza Pages: 7 (2767 words) Published: March 1, 2013
The Bait - DIDLS Analysis

The Bait, a poem written by metaphysical poet, John Donne, during the early seventeenth century, tells the story of a woman whose physical attractiveness and coquettish behaviour prove destructive as they succeed in ruining her chances of finding a pure and meaningful relationship. This poem is recounted from the point of view of a man whom, amongst many other men, has pursued this woman and become emotionally hurt in the process as he finds her actions, in response to his affections, to be heartless and insensitive. Throughout this poem, Donne uses elevated diction, contrasting imagery, influential details, metaphysical conceit, both figurative and seditious language, and elongated sentence structure in order to carry out the many shifts in tone throughout the poem, as well as to amplify its overall tone of seduction and sexuality.

Within the first stanza of The Bait, Donne makes use of a metaphysical conceit, comparing the act of making and seeking love to fishing. This conceit is employed through the image “...we will some new pleasures prove Of golden sands, and crystal brooks, With silken lines and silver hooks.” This particular conceit is both crucial and instrumental, for it introduces the idea upon which the poem is principally based; that this woman views the manipulation of men’s fate as a mere jest. The image, through which this conceit is employed, helps to set the light and pleasant tone of the first and second stanzas by causing the reader to imagine the beautifully picturesque scenery with which the speaker is tempting his mistress. This image also adds to the overall tone of seductiveness throughout the poem, for within it are made references to objects of finery such as gold, “crystal”, silk, and “silver”. The mention of these objects is instrumental, for, although they are being used as descriptors, it is as if the speaker were using the adjectives themselves as physical trinkets with which he might seductively bribe his mistress. Donne also makes use of persuasive diction within the first stanza through the use of the word “pleasures”. This word adds to the overall tone of seduction present throughout the first half of the poem, for it could be used as an allusion to sexual acts and has a more powerful connotative effect than would have had the words “enjoyments”, “delights”, etc. Donne also uses personification to enhance the light and pleasant tone of the first and second stanzas. In the first line of the second stanza, the speaker refers to the river as “whisp’ring”, giving the river human-like characteristics and causing the reader to image the pleasant sound of its quiet lull as it is warmed by the eyes of the woman. Donne also uses a hyperbole within this stanza, saying that the river is warmed more by the woman’s eyes than by the rays of the sun. This is an exaggeration, for the speaker does not mean to say that his mistress’ eyes possess the power to radiate heat, but rather that they are powerful enough to bewitch both the river and the fish that swim within it. By mentioning the relationship between the swimming fish and the woman, Donne again makes use of a metaphysical conceit, comparing men in pursuit of the woman to fish that swim in a river. He then goes on to use denotative diction in the last two lines of the second stanza in order to add to the overall tone of seduction present throughout the first half of the poem. Through the use of the words “enamour’d” and “begging” the speaker expresses the sentiments of passion and desperation that sense the men upon encountering this woman. Donne also uses an abundance of caesura and enjambment, within the phrases of the first two stanzas, to enhance their pleasant flow and light tone.

In the third stanza of The Bait, a shift in tone gradually takes place as the poem moves from a light and pleasant tone to one that is slightly more foreboding. Donne begins the third stanza with the image of the...
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