Question: John Donne as a love poet- discuss.
John Donne (1572-1631) as a love poet is in stark contrast to the Elizabethan and Petrarchan concept of platonic love. His treatment of love focuses on different aspects. He is not a mere worshiper of a goddess-like beloved. His love philosophy shows physical love and holy love, cynicism, and faith in love, and above all the sanctity and dignity of married life.
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Donne’s treatment of love is realistic and not idealistic. He knows the pleasures of sex and the joy of secret meetings. He attempts to establish the relationship between the body and the soul. True love does not pertain to or is not related to the body; it is the relationship of one soul to another soul. A physical union may not be necessary as in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”. However, in another poem, “The Sun Rising”, the poet regards physical union as necessary. Such contradictions in any way do not mar the value of his poetry. They simply emphasize the contradiction between the demands of the body and the needs of the soul.
Power of mutual and true love
As it is known that John Donne is not a worshiper of a reluctant beautiful beloved. He asserts that love cannot get its fulfillment if there is no mutual attraction and passion for each other. Balance in love is as necessary as the soul to the body. Balance and true love keep the lovers aloof from all kinds of illicit love attractions whether they are together or separated for a time being. In the poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, the poet declares with confidence the power of mutual and true love.
“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.”
Unification of sensibility
The unique aspect of Donne’s love poetry is the blend of thought and passion. His love poetry is complex but there are two aspects in his poems. One is a subtle play of argument and wit and the other is a fantasy having packed with realism. His is not idealistic and conventional. His logics are blended with nice speculations of philosophy. In “The Canonization”, Donne logically shows his passion that the lovers are saints. “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” expresses that passion with logic satisfies the beloved and gives confidence as to the purity of love. “The Sunrising” argumentatively depicts that satisfactory love cannot be disturbed by any kind of natural forces. “The Good-Morrow” is another paradigm of love poem filled with passion and arguments. Here in this poem, the poet shows that true love is the result of immortality.
“Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.”
Attitude to women
As a love poet, John Donne never degrades women. He does not feel that women are the sex-doll. He gives them prestige though he thinks that they are essentially a bundle of contradictions. We can quote from the poem “The Sunrising”:
“She’s all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.”
Such expression helps us to evaluate Donne’s attitude to women. However, his two-fold attitude to women depends on the situation and mood.
Diction and movement
Diction means the use of language and movement refers to the melodious or lyrical quality. Discarding the ornamental and artificial language of the Petrarchan poets, he uses conversational language and dramatic form. This dramatic quality of his love poems enhances the passion of his love.
The mystic concept of love
The Holy Sonnets—also known as the Divine Meditations or Divine Sonnets—are a series of nineteen poems by John Donne. At Holy Sonnets, he addresses religious themes related to death, divine justice, heavenly love, and humble penance while reflecting on deeply personal concerns. In the poem “Batter My Heart”, he declares his mystic love for god. He says, he will never be free, and he will never be chaste until God ravishes him.
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To sum up, John Donne’s acts of love are notable for their strong and passionate style. His versatile treatment of love really surprises the readers very deeply since he is at the same time sensual, realistic, mystic, violent, and full of vivacity of life.