Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wit in John Donne's Poetry

SHUAIB ASGHAR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
HAROONABAD, PAKISTAN


Dr. Johnson describes the wit of John Donne as being a kind of “discordia concors”, or a combination of dissimilar images, or a discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike.

          Donne's poems have plenty of wit, as defined by Dr. Johnson, in relation with the metaphysical poets. His conceits indeed are startling, but ultimately just. The poet often proves their truth. The ability to elaborate a conceit to its farthest possibility without losing the sense of its appropriateness speaks for a high intellectual caliber.

 In ‘The Good Morrow’, the poet compares himself and his beloved to two hemispheres which form the whole earth--- what is more, they are even better than the actual earth, for they do not have the "sharp North" and the "declining West". It is a complex image conveying the exclusive world of the lovers and the warmth of passion in this world on which the sun never sets.
         
The compasses image in ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ is another intricate conceit which is logically developed by Donne.

          Wit may manifest itself in humorous remarks too. Donne was capable of this kind of wit too. Some of his poems show his capacity for satiric and ironic wit, as in ‘The Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star’, and ‘The Elegies’.

In ‘The Flea’, we have a remarkable display of wit. Out of a flea bite, Donne has drawn an ingenious simile and written twenty-seven lines of witty argument.

          Donne's wit also manifests itself in the argumentation and ratiocination present in the poems. How logically he moves from mood to mood in ‘The Sun Rising’; from willing the busy old sun to leave the lovers alone he goes on to end the poem by saying that the sun can warm the whole world by just shining on their small room, for the lovers constitute the whole world.
         
The paradoxical style of some of his poems also reflect Donne's wit, especially so in ‘The Holy Sonnet, Batter my heart’.

          Moreover, Donne's poems are strewn with brilliant witty lines---such as ‘A bracelet of bright hair about the bone’, which is striking for the image it conjures.

          Donne's wit is no trick of fashion. It arises from a deeper source-- his very attitude to life-- and is an expression of his wisdom. His poems reflect his poetic intelligence, his ability to fuse thought and feeling.   

                     

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