DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
Rebel Against Woman-Worshipping
When Donne began writing, the Elizabethan love poetry was based wholly on Petrarchan style. It involved the theme of woman-worship expressed in sugar-coated language. Donne's poems get rid of this theme.
In his poems woman is also an ordinary human being, capable of love as well as desire and very well able to deceive and be inconstant. ‘The Message’ mocks at women for their forced fashions and false passions. In ‘The song: Go and Catch a Falling Star’, Donne playfully treats the theme of woman's inability to remain faithful. In ‘The Apparition’ he calls the woman he loves, a "murderess" --a glaring departure from the Petrarchan style.
Joy Of Love
Moreover, Elizabethan poetry described the pains and sorrows of love, the sorrow of absence, the pain of rejection, (except some of the finest of Shakespeare's sonnets).
John Donne, however, speaks in many of his poems of the joy of mutual passion. In The Good Morrow, The Canonization, The Sun Rising, The Anniversary etc. he expresses the delight of mutual love-making.
Rebel In Language
Another area in which Donne departs from earlier convention is, of course, in the language and imagery used. His poetry is full of allusions as earlier poetry, but the source are much more varied and unconventional. The separation of lovers is expressed in terms of an image of the two legs of a compass. Gods and goddesses of mythology find little place in Donne's love poems.
He makes use of images and allusions from contemporary discoveries and explorations, science and speculation of the new age, scholastic theory and alchemy and astrology and even law.
Moreover, unlike earlier convention, the tone of his love poems is conversational, never ornamental but often colloquial.
Different Moods Of Love
Donne's love poetry is chiefly remarkable for the range and variety of mood and attitude that it presents. At the lowest level, or rather the simplest level, there is the expression of the sensual aspect of love, merely the celebration of the physical appetite, subject to change and decay.
On another level are the poems dealing with mutually enjoyed love between man and woman. In this case there is a joy and contentment, expressed in poems such as The Sun Rising, The Good Morrow, or The Anniversarie.
On the highest level are the poems which present love as a holy passion which sanctifies the lovers. Examples are The Ecstasy, The Canonization, and The Undertaking.
Donne's treatment of love is realistic and not idealistic. He knows the weaknesses of the flesh, the pleasure of sex, and the joy of secret meetings. However, he tries to establish the relationship between the body and the soul. True love does not pertain to the body; it is the relationship of one soul to another soul. Physical union may not be necessary as in ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. However, in ‘The Relic’, the poet regards physical union as necessary.
Passion And Thought
Donne does not allow his passion to run away with him. He holds it in check with his reason. When the beloved wants to crush the flea that has bitten her, the poet argues with her dissuading her from what he calls triple murder of the lover, the beloved and the flea.