It is a complex and metaphysical poem dealing with the twin aspects of love—physical and spiritual. Some critics like Legouis find in it a plan for seduction with emphasis on the physical nature of love, while others like Helen Gardner find in it an affirmation of spiritual love. In fact, it deals with the relationship of the body and the soul in love. What is ‘extasie’?
‘Extasie’ is essentially a religious experience in which the individual soul, ignoring the body, holds converse with Divinity. It is a feeling of trance, of spiritual exaltation, and of Samadhi where the individual has a vision of the divine. Donne applies the feeling to the experience of the lovers and finds that the essence of love is not sex but an overpowering feeling of unity in diversity. In fact, true love is an activity of the soul. A new soul emanates from the two individual souls and makes the lover realize that love is, in its pure essence, spiritual. Donne has also interpreted love in a philosophic way. Love is an idea or a concept concretized through physical enjoyment of sex. He has also interpreted it according to the Platonic concept the desire of the moth for the star, longing of one soul to seek communication with another. Another idea introduced in the poem has been borrowed from astronomy. Just as heavenly bodies are moved by “intelligences” i.e., angelic spirits, in the same way souls are the motivating forces in human love, though they have no existence of their own. They are linked with the body, which is the overt and apparent machinery for love-making. The soul expresses itself through the body. In other words, the body is a medium used by the soul to achieve the consummation of love. Thus the poem uses a religious and mystical experience to interpret the complexity and depth of secular love. DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT
The physical setting
The first stanza provides the physical setting of the two lovers. On the bank of a river over...
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