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Metaphysical Poetry - the Flea + Sune Rising

By Bree Mar 28, 2005 1730 Words
Metaphysical poets use startling juxtapositions in their poetry to create a greater significance in their arguments and intended meanings throughout the poem. John Donne is said to be the unsurpassed metaphysical poet, metaphysical poetry being poetry relating to a group of 17-century English poets whose verse is typified by an intellectually arduous style, admitting extended metaphors and comparing very disparate things. In 17th century England new discoveries were being made and social customs such as men being the dominant over women still applied. Through Donne's poetry we can see that he is goaded and confused by the new discoveries and the social customs avert him from reaching his desires. This is incalculably recognized in his two poems, "The Sunne Rising" and "The Flea" where Donne's arguments challenge some beliefs of the 17th century England. Through "The Sunne Rising" we gain a sense of meaning that Donne is irritated and perplexed with new discoveries and that he believes his love is everything in the whole world. In "The Flea" we can see Donne challenging the social costumes of the 17th century, such as chastity of women, his tremendous persistence to sexually unite with the woman and the overall dominance presented over the woman. In both of these poems Donne uses vividly striking differences in the argument to emphasize the overall meaning of the poem. These dramatic contrasts include conceit, binary opposition, imagery, specific words and the movement of the poem, which are additionally affirmed by poetic devices.

The "Sunne Rising" implies that when a couple unearths perfect love together they become one, shaping a world of their own, which has no need for the outside world. He suggests that even the physical laws of the universe must defer to those persons caught up in the larger universe of infatuation. We also see Donne is going through a struggle of the old and new during the poem. In the "Sunne Rising" Donne uses a number of dramatic contrasts; a contrast of old and new things, beautiful and stunning imagery reflected on his lover, and the movement of the poem to help shape his meaning. In the very first line of the poem, using direct address, Donne states "Busie old foole, unruly Sunne," this first line begins one of the meanings presented in the poem; the struggle between old and new things. This struggle is heavily displayed in the first stanza, "Old..unruly..pedantique..chidde..late schoole boyes," the dramatic contrast between the new and old gives the reader a feeling of struggle and confusing during the first stanza, which was what Donne was feeling through the 17th century. These words help the reader to understand Donne's meaning; that new things have disrupted the old.

Donne reflects his one and only, with the most beautiful imagery in which he can imagine. Like love itself, the woman in Donne's verse is addressed and praised in exaggerated terms. In the "Sunne Rising" her eyes shine brighter than the sun, "if her eyes had not blinded thine". She is compared to the "India's of spice and Myne", she is "all States, and all Princes" and "All wealth alchimie". The "India's spice and Myne" relates to the east and west Indians, in the 17th century , the Indian's kept a source of the world's most valued materials; spices, metals and jewels. All the exaggerated imagery of the woman helps to stress just how exceptional she is. It helps to shape his meaning through the poem, we see this grand, exaggerated imagery and it helps us to envision just how beautiful she is, why she is the focus of the poem.

The movement through each stanza in "the Sunne Rising" also holds a number of dramatic contrasts. Donne wants the reader to see just how exceptional his lover is, and through each stanza he uses dramatic contrasts to help assert his lover in different ways. The first stanza conveys egotism and insolence towards the sun and the pace and rhythm is very hasty. This stanza begins with a series of questions. These questions are very threatening and intrusive, and add to the scornful tone. Donne also uses imagery to divide all livings things into two groups in this stanza; lovers and non lovers, emphasizing that he and his lovers are extraordinary. The imagery of lovers and non-lovers, intimidating questions and extreme insults towards the sun, and fast rhythm all accentuate Donne's anger against the sun; how he is disturbing him and his lover. This stanza is then cleverly concluded with the rhyming couplet, "no seasons knows," Donne has gone from a rage directed at the sun to completely focusing on his lover, and this couplet is also stressed by the masculine rhyming, which is very authoritative and compelling. When the poem moves to the second stanza, more dramatic contrasts begin to unfold. Here there is a change of attitude; the persona is now grandiose and abusive. This change in tone enunciates even more hatred towards the sun, but in this stanza he is more pompous. This pompous tone is intensified by the extra emphasis given to the speaker's sense of self, the zealous assertion of self hood, ‘mee…mee'. Then when the last stanza begins, we see a major dramatic contrast. The tone, the pace and the subject all change. In the fist two stanzas love and the sun are separate, but in this stanza love and the sun are one. Instead of the stanza opening with question, this stanza opens with a series of concise announcements, "nothing else is". All these dramatic contrasts throughout the poem draw us into Donne's argument, they obtain are interest so that we can understand why Donne is fanatical with his lover.

Another impressive love poem of John Donne's is "The Flea". "The flea" is a persuasive poem in which the speaker is endeavoring to create a sexual union with his mistress. But, based on the woman's refusal, the persona entwines his argument, making that which he desires seem insignificant. The flea entails a number of dramatic contrasts such as conceit, binary opposition and the movement of the poem to exalt the meaning of poem; this is conjointly articulated with the use of poetic techniques. The flea is a shifting conceit in the poem; the flea bit is compared to the act of love. Throughout the poem Donne queries the validity of desired virginity but also the importance of sex as it pertains to life. The conceit of a flea helps to bring out the meaning that the deplete of virginity is an extraneous thing, as the flea is a dirty diseased insect, "A sinne, or shame, or losse of maidenhead". The conceit also aids to assist the persuasive argument. In each stanza the flea holds a diverse connotation. In first stanza the flea is used a symbol of their unity, their bloods are mixed together, "our two bloods mingled bee", this is the foundation of the conceit and starts his importunate argument. In the second stanza the flea is represented as a more consecrated symbol, it is used as their marriage temple; this conceit helps drive the argument, as the women would not be afraid to sleep with him as she is now ‘married'. The conceit changes again in the third stanza, as the women has killed the flea, Donne shrewdly twists the argument, annotating that the consequence of her killing the flea is insignificant, as would her giving her virginity to him. Donne has successfully used this changing conceit to italicize his persistence.

A significant contrast in "The Flea" is the binary opposition between the man and woman. The man and woman are both communicated in the poem, but in dissimilar ways. The Man speaks the entire way throughout the poem, whereas the woman is only represented as an object, she communicates only through action. Dramatic opposition in the characters helps to enforce the meaning that women are subordinate to men and to aid his persuasive argument. It could also be implied that she has no right to speak, she is a whore, and therefore should give her virginity to the man. It is obvious that Donne wants to only to make demands in this poem, because of the persistence of his argument. The women is only represented in negative ways, she crushes the flea, "Cruel and soadaine, hast thou since purpled they name, in blood of innocence?" This negativity implements dominance in males. By using the women as a subsidiary figure, Donne has been able make his argument more persuasive, as this ‘object' should just give her virginity to him.

Another Dramatic contrast in "The Flea" is the movement of the poem; it changes dramatically between each stanza. In the fist stanza the tone is pensive and whimsical, this moves to stanza two which is incongruous, with a faster pace, following to stanza 3 which holds a slower pace and dramatic reversal of argument. The argument also under goes dramatic contrasts; the argument gains confidence throughout the stanzas and then is abruptly turned around. This abrupt change in the argument helps to emphasize the persistence in the argument. It startles the reader and helps us to see just how determined Donne is. Another way in which Donne accentuates his meaning is through the poetic devices, rhythm and rhyme. The poem has irregular lines of iambic tetrameter and pentameter. Through the poem Donne varies the rhythm to highlight particular words or phrases, "mark but this flea, and mark in this" instead of opening with an unstressed syllable as in iambic form; Donne strains the word, "mark". This is important in accentuating his argument. The poem follows the aabbbccddd rhyme scheme. This constant pattern mirrors the speaker's persistence as he proceeds with his demands for intimacy throughout the poem. The dramatic movement and specific poetic devices in this poem successfully help to shape Donne's meanings and altering arguments.

Through both "The Sunne Rising" and "The Flea", the reader can see how Donne has ingeniously employed Dramatic contrasts to shape his meanings and accentuate his arguments. These Dramatic contrasts give the reader an enhanced feeling of place, time and what Donne is feeling. Through each startling juxtaposition, the readers' attention is renewed and obtained, leading them to find out Donne's intentions for the poem.

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