Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds

Topics: Sonnet, John Donne, Shakespeare's sonnets Pages: 2 (527 words) Published: December 16, 2011
The last time we ran a metaphysical poem [1], I went into a rather detailed analysis of its construction, talking about the many conceits used, how they fit into a logical sequence, and how the idea of logic gave structure to the poem as a whole. Several readers wrote in to say that they enjoyed that particular essay, and they'd like to see more of the same on the Minstrels.

Of course, not all poems lend themselves to that sort of critical dissection, and there are many which I believe should _not_ be analysed, just read and enjoyed in themselves. (Several of you wrote to express this latter point of view as well; you can't win, sometimes ). Nevertheless, I will be analysing today's poem in depth; I think it offers a lot more to the reader who is willing to spend some time inquiring into its meaning.

The Shakespeare of the sonnets is a very different person from the playwright who gave us King Lear, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the plays he is the consummate craftsman, entertaining audiences with masterpieces of dramatic effect while exploring human character to a degree seen never before or since. The sonnets, though, reveal a more thoughtful, introspective writer, a philosopher-poet inquiring, especially, into the question of Time and its effect on human affairs. But he's never coldly intellectual; his sonnets burn with emotion and (unrequited?) love. And it's in this respect that I feel that Shakespeare's sonnets are the definitive statement of the metaphysical poet's art: he presages Donne and Marvell and their 'passionate intelligence' with remarkable accuracy.

'Let me not to the marriage of true minds' is about as metaphysical as a poem can get; indeed, if I didn't know better, I would have credited it to Donne. Its themes are the usual Shakespearean preoccupations: in his commentary to 'Full many a glorious morning have I seen' [2], Martin writes, "If you've read any of Shakespeare's sonnets, the sequence of images is instantly...
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