John Donne is one of many poets of his time who wrote love poetry. The thing that sets him apart from the others is that he manages to successfully subvert the traditional conventions to his own ends. Each of the secular poems "The Flea", "The Sunne Rising" and "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" shows Donne's verbal dexterity, manipulation of the conventional form and the use of a variety of textual features.
For the secular love poem "The Flea" the conventional form is that the flea is to be used as a symbolism of love. Donne subverts this form and uses the flea for the key point to his argument and to symbolise sex/marriage.
In the poem Donne conveys meaning through the rhyming and structure. In each of the three stanza's the first six lines hold three sets of two rhyming couplets that symbolises the couple (the male and female lover). At the end of stanza's there is set of three rhymes that is slightly indented which symbolises the union of the flea with the couple.
Donne uses hyperbole in line 1, stanza 2 "...three lives in one flea spare..." and again in line 7, stanza 2 where he begins the argument that in killing the flea she commits murder, suicide and sacrilege. This extreme argumentative, exaggeration creates a flow and pace throughout his sustained arguments.
The use of religious terminology eg. Cloistered, three live in one flea -holy trinity, sacrilege etc. helps to add an authority from god to the poem and it also elevates the language.
Donne also uses repetition line 1, stanza 1"...Marke but this flea, and marke in this..."
to create a commanding, direct address to the audience. It gives the poem an imperative tone. In this poem the use of rhetorical questions conveys an argumentative tone and in stanza 3, lines 1 and 2 the use of emotive imagery changes the pace of the argument and makes it more personal.
Another secular poem, not unlike "the Flea", that Donne subverts is called "The Sunne Rising". This poem is a "dawn poem"...
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