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John Donne Analysis

  • Submitted by: shannel08
  • on February 27, 2011
  • Category: English
  • Length: 1,906 words

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John Donne's Songs and Sonnets do not describe a single unchanging view of love; they express a wide variety of emotions and attitudes, as if Donne himself were trying to define his experience of love through his poetry. Love can be an experience of the body, the soul, or both; it can be a religious experience, or merely a sensual one, and it can give rise to emotions ranging from ecstasy to despair. Taking any one poem in isolation will give the reader a limited view of Donne's attitude to love, but treating each poem as part of a totality of experience, represented by all the Songs and Sonnets, gives an insight into the complex range of experiences that can be grouped under the single heading of 'Love'.
  In the poem 'To his Mistris Going to Bed', we see how highly Donne can praise sensual pleasure. He addresses the woman as; “Oh my America, my new found lande,…My myne of precious stones, my Empiree”. The images are of physical, material wealth, and any reader of this poem alone would think Donne's interest in women was limited to the sexual level. He describes sex in terms of a religious experience; the woman is an 'Angel', she provides 'A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise', and the bed is 'loves hallow'd temple'. But although erotic, this does not seem to be a love poem. It is not stated anywhere in the poem that he loves this woman, nor that sex is part of a deeper relationship.
  Donne conveys a very different and more complex attitude to erotic pleasure in ‘The Extasie’, where it is just one part of the experience of love. For example, in the lines; “This Extasie doth unperplex/( We said) and tell us what we love,/Wee see by this, it was not sexe,/Wee see, we saw not what did move . . . /Love's mysteries in soules doe grow,/But yet the body is his booke.” The body and the soul are distinct, but related aspects of the totality of love. The uniting of souls is the purest and highest form of love, but this can only be attained through the uniting of bodies;...

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