The Growing Up of John Donne in His Love Poetry

Topics: Poetry, Sonnet, Love Pages: 5 (1826 words) Published: January 3, 2012
The Growing up of John Donne in his Love Poetry

“Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time” is a quote from John Donne which talks about how love defies time however he did not always have such an optimistic view of love. John Donne was a writer in the 1700s’ who used the theme of love in quite a few of his poems. Donne can be a pessimistic poet, which often creates misunderstandings in both the theme of love and how the poem is written. Since love is so unclear and there is nothing definite about love, it makes it difficult to write about and often misunderstood says R.V. Young (251).  Donne shows his love in these poems through references to physical love, the union of two souls, and journeys. These references can be seen in “To his Mistress Going to Bed,” “The Flea,” “The Extasie,” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”. One of the ways Donne expresses the theme of love is through physical love. The two main poems that refer to physical love are “To his Mistress Going to Bed” and “The Flea.” Donne’s poem “To his Mistress Going to Bed” is about the speaker trying to convince a women to remove her clothes by saying “Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glittering, / But a far fairer world encompassing. / Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear” (lines 5-7). The speaker talks in great detail about his wishes for this woman to remove her clothing even though the woman does not want to. In order to comfort her, he says “there is no penance due to innocence” (line 46) meaning that removing her clothes is an innocent act and not a sin; therefore there is nothing for her to fear. In this poem, the speaker does not say that he loves this woman; he only refers to the physical relationship he wishes to have with her and how happy he is to share a romantic encounter with her but not looking to further any relationship that may follow together. The speaker says, “My mine of precious stones, my empery; / How am I blest in thus discovering thee!” (lines 29-30) which is the speaker’s way of expressing his happiness created by being with this woman while also complementing her on her beauty and power over him.  Donne ends “To my Mistress Going to Bed” by saying, “To teach thee, I am naked first; why than, / what needst thou have more covering than a man?” (lines 47-48) which gives off the impression that the women gave into the speaker’s temptations and removed her clothing. The other work of poetry that discusses physical love is “The Flea” which has a very obscure plot line that contains an ambiguous way of symbolizing physical love shared between two romantic partners. In this poem, the speaker once again is trying to persuade a woman to participate in an expression of physical love by saying that “me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee, / And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee” (lines 3-4) meaning the flea had bitten him and his partner causing their blood to be combined, which in his time “signifies loss of virginity through heterosexual copulation” (Mansour 7), but the woman refuses his advances. The speaker then tries to comfort the woman, like the previous poem, by saying “thou know'st that this cannot be said / A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead” meaning that it was not sinful or shameful to express physical love however the woman still refuses his advances. The woman reacts to the speaker’s attempts to persuade her into physical love by eventually killing the flea. By killing the flea it showed that her answer was not going to change and that she wished the speaker to stop pressuring her (7). Donne also has many poems that deal with the theme of love that instead of referencing physical love; they reference the topic of two souls becoming one and show Donne’s desire for a deep connection which was not seen in “To his Mistress Going to Bed” and “The Flea.”.        The topic of two souls becoming one can be seen in the poems “The...
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