Donne combines emotion and intellect in his poems

Donne combines emotion and intellect in his poems

Question: How does Donne combine emotion and intellect in his poem?


Sensuous apprehension of thought which is called the unification of sensibility. To put it differently, unified sensibility means the combination of emotion and thought. For the union of thought and feeling, the power of John Donne (1572-1631) depends on the variety of mood, images, conceits, and certainly intellectualism.

The Variety of mood

Donne’s love poetry is chiefly remarkable for the range and variety of mood and attitude. By dint of the variety of mood, he has been able to blend thought and emotion in a bizarre way. His mood of poetry can be divided into three segments which carry the blend of passion and thinking.

The simplest level

At the lowest level or simplest level, there is the expression of the sensual aspect of love. Here there is a celebration of the physical appetite. If love is only considered to be a physical feeling, it will be nothing more than lust that is subject to change and loss. Such fusion of feeling and ratiocination is notably presented in his Elegies.

The intermediate level

In this level, the poems deal with mutually enjoyed love between man and woman. In this case, there is joy and contentment, expressed in poems such as The Sun Rising, The Good-Morrow or The Anniversary.

The highest level

On the highest level, the poems present love as a holy passion that sanctifies the lovers. Examples are The Ecstasy, The Canonization, and The Undertaking.

Click here: For all the notes of Literary Criticism

Intellectualism and logical quality

Each of Donne’s love poems gets born from a particular sensation but he interprets that feeling with the help of his intellect and logic. His readers can share a passion, enjoying a joke, feeling, and thinking simultaneously. In “The Canonization”, the mingling of passion and thought is seen. The supreme feeling of satisfaction in love is expressed. However, the poem offers an intellectual tone with complex conceits and logic. In the poem “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”, he moves from thought to thought with measured and weighty music. Here there is a series of reasoned comparisons.

“If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two;

Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if the other do.”

Passion is conveyed in images that are strange, logical, and of an intellectual nature. The intellectual images arise from an emotional situation that is related to complex thought, as expressed at the very outset of “The Good Morrow”:

“I wonder by my troth what thou, and I

Did, till we loved?”

One cannot deny the passion in the poem, but the passion is Inevitably fused into thought. The poem is a long argument to prove the greatness of the experience of love. The conceits are used to illustrate his argument and persuade. The lovers can never die because of their intensity of love.

Using imagery and conceits

Donne’s poems arise from an emotional situation. Then the poet argues to make his attitude acceptable and, in this process, the conceits are used as instruments. His originality is reflected when he uses images and conceits from various sources and fields. In “The Sun Rising”, we find a successful union of passion and thought, feeling, and ratiocination. In an emotional mood, the poet takes shelter to wit or conceit which sometimes seems to be highly fantastic and exaggerated. How well the fusion of feeling and thought is expressed at the beginning of the final stanza:

“She’s all states, and all princes I

Nothing else is.”

The world of love and the outside world are kept side by side, and the little world of the lovers is called the small world or microcosm of the outside world. So, the function of his image and conceit is multifarious.


Donne achieves unification of sensibility very successfully and artificially. His poetry gives the impression that the thought and arguments are arising immediately out of passionate feelings. It is part of the dramatic realism of his style. He could combine disparate experiences and build something new through a variety of subjects.

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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