John Donne Poetry Essay, Research Paper
By Referring Closely to at least 4 poems, examine the distinct characteristics of John Donne poetry, paying particular attention to the Relationship Between Intellect and Emotion.
John Donne was born in 1572 and both of his parents were Roman Catholics and as a result religion played a very prominent part in his upbringing, and this influenced his poetry greatly. Throughout his poetry there is a strong feel of religion. He was also an educated man and this is also shows in his work with his logical arguments and thought and feeling that goes into his poems. He often uses a paradox and likens things such as love and religion to other things as well. This also shows his range and variety of language also showing his intellectual and emotional feelings. This also illustrates how much thought goes into his work as well as feeling as it is all relevant to him and personal.
Many things become apparent throughout John Donne?s poetry however one theme is particularly apparent. This is his idea?s towards understanding the relationship between man and God. Donne has a strong idea of how this relationship should take place and of how man is to relate to God and he often likens it to a relationship between a man and a woman. However Donne believes that however strong this bond between man?s relationship with God and how alike to man and women it is, he believes that the spiritual bond is much stronger. Once this bond has been made, it is difficult to break.
In the poem A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Donne speaks of this relationship as ?stiff twin compasses? also indicating that each is always pointing towards the other. Through this poem and many other many of John Donne?s distinct characteristics come through. The first and most obvious is the use of persuasive argument. At the start of the poem he likens him and his lover to a compass. This gives the idea of travelling and Donne supposedly gave this poem to his wife just before he went travelling. He then asks her (his wife) to:
?Thy firmness drawes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begunne?
The ?firmness? is referring to the physical stiffness of the leg of the compass, this being the moral strength he is urging on her throughout the poem. ?drawes my circle just,? is saying that it makes a complete journey and gives point and direction to it. The final line ?makes me end, where I begunne? is logically where the compass analogy breaks down. The Lady is now the thought of both the point on the circumference of the circle where he began and where he returns and the centre, the point in which he revolves around. This could show the pressure of feeling within the poem instead of being just a mistake. This not only shows the intellect of the poem but also shows the imagery of his topics and the way he explains something by likening it into something else, a paradox. It is a carefully constructed argument again typical of John Donne.
The second poem I am going to analyse The Good Morrow. Even though John Donne was a man of the cloth had a religious man, he still had temptations and encounters with women. This poem has details of his feelings about one of his loved ones and is about love in the highest order. He starts the poem by saying that even if they thought they had loved before it is just an illusion ?I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I did, till we loved? ?. The love they are experiencing is the real thing and that all other loves are insignificant in comparison. In the second stanza, Donne says that the room that he and his lover are sharing is everything and also everywhere. He creates the image that there is no life beyond the walls of there room and that they are the only two people in the world that matter ?Let us posses one world, each hath one, and is one.?. Then in the third stanza, Donne and his lover are looking at each others eyes ?My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,? and Donne sees his own image reflected in her eyes and she sees hers in his. This shows the imagery created by Donne. He then portrays the image that their eyes are both ?hemisphere?s?, referring to the semantic field of the globe, linking back to the view that they are the only people in the world that matters. This way he says they are without the ?declining west?, meaning primitive and ?sharp north? meaning cold. This mans that they have none of the problems of the real world, therefore their world is the best.
?If our two loves be one, thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die?
This statement is saying that if they love each other equally then their love will never die. This poem, like the first, uses a paradox or image to illustrate his point about their ?love?. This poem is bases around two central metaphors. One of the two lovers waking into a new life together and the other is of the new world created by their new, mutual love. What gives the poem a distinct characteristic is how he uses these images in an argument to reveal more about the experience of love between them which was evident from the start.
The third poem is The Sunne Rising. From the start the first line we can pick up a distinct characteristic of his poetry, ?Busie old foole?. The first word shows a lot of emphasis and is often stressed and forceful. It is one of his dramatic openings. Another example of this is from Batter My Heart when the first line starts with ?Batter My Heart?. This is again another dramatic, stressed opening. In this poem the lover?s bed is intruded by the sun and the man takes offence at this by referring to him as he does at the start. He creates the image that the sun has forced the end of their time together, ?Must to thy motions lovers seasons run?? For the man this intrusion is too soon. He then attacks the sun and refers to him as ?unruly? and then tells him where he should be going. In the end though he concedes to allow the sun into his chamber but emphasis that they are still the centre of the world ?This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy spheare.?. An arrogant tone comes through in this poem by the way he insults the ruler of time; the sun. He also claims that his lover is more powerful than the sun, ?If her eyes had not blinded thine? implies this. The arrogance also shows by the way he is saying that the whole world is in the bed and that he is more important than both sides of the world, and that the sun couldn?t wake them. However since the sun cannot be stopped, Donne cleverly turns this around and the lover pretends to give the sun permission to stay ?To warme the world, that?s done in warming us? and turn?s this refusal to leave into a show of generosity. This is a good example of Donne?s clever writing. Donne has written many poems in which lovers respond to dawn and they often portray a happy love and develop a further theme, in this case it?s the two lovers making up one world.
The forth poem I am going to look at is To His Mistriss going to Bed. Throughout this poem he portray?s a real eagerness to get this woman into bed (and again as is the case with many other of his poems) he uses a strong, cleverly thought of idea to do this. His eagerness is shown however with phases such as ?all rest my powers defie? and ?I in labour lie?. The second example shows his use of imagery as it means that he is waiting impatiently, as a woman in labour awaits the delivery of her baby. Metaphors are also used a lot in this poem. ?The oft-times having the foe in sight? referring it to a battle and he also uses similes. ?A heaven like Mahomets Pardise? Also here he likens it to another place. These are also examples of paradox and are typical of a metaphysical poet such as John Donne and as a result are typical of his poetry. Emotion is also very important in this poem as a makes several sexual suggestions but disguises them in the text as something else. ?but these our teeth upright? and ?Is tir?d with standing through he never fight? both being references to his erections. His emotion gets the better of him in this poem and many others as he desperately is trying to get her in to bed, however he keeps his cool and his logic in persuasion stays the same.
From these poems we can deduce many things about John Donne?s poetry. The first is the intense dramatic sense that John Donne creates throughout his poems and many of his poems are dramatic monologues. An example of this is from The Flea. This is a really a speech delivered by a would be lover to an unwilling lady and her reactions can be noticed to his enquiries and A Valediction Forbidding Mourning is a speech to a tearful wife. Another characteristic is Intellectualism. From the use of imagery and referring things as something else, Donne presents his poems as though they are riddles. For example from A Valediction Forbidding Mourning you have to ask the question, How are a happily married couple like a compass? He presents them all as similes. A lot of his poems are also influenced by emotion for example A Valediction Forbidding Mourning was written when he was going away from his wife. His intellectual nature comes through in a lot of poems. For example in The Flea the complaining lover uses the messages of both science and religion to argue that their alliance is justifiable. However we can also see that even though he makes plenty of sexual and emotional references he also manages to combine this with intellectual and logical arguments without losing the two. For example in To his mistriss going to bed he does so combining sexual and logic well and in A Valediction: A Forbidden Mourning he combines emotion with intellect. The intellect also becomes prominent in his poems via his references to other things which have influenced him throughout his life. For example in To his Mistriss Going to bed when he writes ?Are like Atlanta?s balls? this refers to a story by Ovid, one of his inspirations.(In the story Atlanta would only marry a man who could beat her in a foot race. Hippomenes distracts her by throwing three Golden Balls down in front of her, and so won the race).
From this you can see that Emotion and Intellect play a dominant part in forming the characteristics of John Donne poetry but they aren’t the only characteristics. However he often combines many things together and doesn?t use just one which also makes the poetry so good.