Use of Motifs in John Donne’s Poetry

Topics: Metaphysical poets, Poetry, Tears Pages: 3 (740 words) Published: February 10, 2009

John Donne uses a number of motifs, geographical and geometrical shapes, and discoveries etc. as metaphysical conceits in his poetry. Sometimes these are used to express his intensity of love, while sometimes these are used to compare and ultimately prove the superiority of his love. The different motifs used by John Donne are discussed below with references from his various poems.

Donne's fascination with spheres can be understood by reading some of his major works. This obsession with spheres rests partly on the perfection of these shapes and partly on the near-infinite associations that can be drawn from them. Donne used conceits to extend comparisons and to make thematic connections between otherwise dissimilar objects. For instance, in “The Good-Morrow,” the speaker uses the motif of spheres to move from a description of the world to a description of globes to a description of his beloved's eyes to a description of their perfect love. Rather than simply praise his beloved, the speaker compares her to a faultless shape, the sphere, which contains neither corners nor edges. The comparison to a sphere also emphasizes the way in which his beloved's face has become the world, as far as the speaker is concerned.

“Let us possesse one world; each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appeares,
And true plaine hearts doe in the faces rest,
Where can we finde two better hemispheares
Without sharpe North, without declining West? (Lines 14-18)”

In “A Valediction: Of Weeping,” the speaker uses the spherical shape of tears to draw out associations with pregnancy, globes, the world, and the moon. As the speaker cries, each tear contains a miniature reflection of the beloved.

“When a tear falls, that thou fall'st which it bore (Lines 8)”

Particularly in Donne's love poetry, discovery and conquest illustrate the mystery and magnificence of the speakers' love affairs. European...
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