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Transcript of John Donne
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
Serves to advance an honest mind.
If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true, and fair.
If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
Multiple Choice Questions
Who is this poem addressed to?
A. Male readers
B. Female readers
C. Either gender
D. None of the above
2. What is the importance of the two word lines?
A. To sound cool
B. To add musical quality
C. To add dramatic pause
D. There is no importance
3. Donne concludes that all women are
Multiple Choice Answers
Meter, Rhythm, and Rhyme Scheme
About the Poet
Song: Go and Catch A Falling Star
In the early 20th century, John Donne stood as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose.
During the Restoration, his writing went out of fashion.
His poems were rarely read and scarcely appreciated.
Not until the end of the 1800s
His poetry was taken up by a growing band of avant-garde readers and writers.
Its extraordinary appeal to modern readers throws light on the Modernist movement
Donne was seen to be the cult figure in the 1920s and 1930s, until T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats, and among others.
Discovered in his poetry the peculiar fusion of intellect and passion and the alert contemporariness which they aspired to in their own art.
Donne's poetry was written nearly four hundred years ago
Yet the readers found one reason for its appeal
That it speaks to us as directly and urgently as if we overhear a present confidence.
Tone & Word Choice
Imagery & Metaphors
Born into a Catholic family in 1572, during a strong anti-Catholic period in England.
Religion would play a tumultuous and passionate role in John’s life
He entered Oxford University at age 11 and later the University of Cambridge, but never received degrees, due to his Catholicism.
During the 1590s, he spent much of his inheritance on women, books and travel.
He wrote most of his love lyrics and erotic poems during this time.
In 1593, John Donne’s brother, Henry, was convicted of Catholic sympathies and died in prison soon after. The incident led John to question his Catholic faith and inspired some of his best writing on religion.
In 1610, John Donne published his anti-Catholic polemic “Pseudo-Martyr,” renouncing his faith.
His elaborate metaphors, religious symbolism and flair for drama soon established him as a great preacher.
Many of his poems have hidden spiritual metaphors and meanings in them
About The Poet continued...
"Ride ten thousands days and nights"- emphasizing how hard one should search to find an honest woman (hyperbole)
"Or to keep off envy's stinging" (personification)
The poem is made up of 3 stanzas with 9 lines each
Rhyme scheme: ABABCCDDD
Closest to iambic tetrameter
Monometer iambic lines create the effect of having pauses in the middle of the stanzas
The short lines, which introduce the final line of each stanza, adds to the musical quality of the poem.
The 27 line poem is deceptively light but carries deeper meaning
About someone's (presumably a man) attitude towards love and the relations between men and women
Cynical assertion of the nature of womankind.
Comparing finding a faithful woman to “strange sights” and "impossible to see"
The poet states they will be able to travel the word and explore the Earth's wonders before ever being able to find a fair woman
In the last stanza, he states that even if a good and faithful woman is found, by the time you get there she would already be corrupted and fake
Donne asked the readers to do impossible tasks.
"Go and catch a falling star,"
- Try to find and catch a woman's heart
Compares 2 journeys with the chances of finding a virtuous woman and the chances of catching a falling star
"Get with child a mandrake root,"
- Make love with a Mandrake
Mandrake- mythical plant-like creature that shrieks, loud enough to kill someone nearby.
"Tell me where all past years are,/ Or who cleft the devil's foot,/ Teach me to hear mermaids singing,"
Compares solving impossible mysteries like knowing the past, explaining the cause of the devil’s hoof. or finding such a woman to hearing ‘mermaids singing’ or to
"Ride ten thousand days and nights,/ Till age snow white hairs on thee,"
Very vivid and dramatic
Can see man searching for the woman even at old age
"Though she were true, when you met her,/ And last, till you write your letter,/ Yet she/ Will be/ False, ere I come, to two, or three.
As if the man saw her at death bed
In this poem, it is suggested that the concept of a good and honest women does not exist, and that all women are unfaithful. What do you think of this assertion?
What do you think the narrator is trying to say about women in line 17 and 18?
"Tell me where all past years are,/ Or who cleft the Devil’s foot,"
: refers to the medieval belief that an unknown power gave the Devil a cleft foot
"‘Ride ten thousand days and nights,/ Till age snow white hairs on thee ;"
The poet vastly exaggerates the period of possible travel to ten thousand days and nights .
"Though she were true, when you met her,/ And last, till you write your letter,”
The poet is telling the male reader that his letter can make this woman false.
"If thou be'st born to strange sights,"
the repeating sounds of 'b' and 's'
: meaning the biting of people's envy, envy is half personified here
If Donne asks these impossible tasks, then why ask?
Ironic to catch a falling star or get a child with a mandrake.
Ironic to teach to listen to mermaids singing or travel for ten thousand days and night
takes almost twenty-seven years