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John Donne Love Poetry
Transcript of John Donne Love Poetry
Devotional poetry (sonnets and otherwise)
Sermons "He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love." --John Dryden, 1693 In Donne's "amorous verses," are NATURE and METAPHYSICS at odds? Does PHILOSOPHY preclude the SOFTNESS OF LOVE? In other words, is Donne's love poetry focused on artifice or expression? Or can it be both simultaneously? The Question What qualifies as love poetry? (for our purposes) Poem is an address, from a subjective speaker, either to a lover or to a third party about the speaker and his beloved.
Almost always features at least one metaphysical conceit.
Similarly, many feature at least one "turn," in which the speaker changes approach or perspective, usually while maintaining a central metaphor.
Surprisingly libertine in some instances, much more earnest-sounding in others. "The Flea" A demonstration of the characteristics of Donne's love poetry (and why it can be so frustrating!) Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two;
And this, alas! is more than we would do.
O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true; then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee. Sonnets! Elegies! Longer Poems! Conceit: Sex = fleabite? Dramatic situation: Conversation between lover and (unheard) beloved - an attempted seduction! Turn: Speaker tries a different angle in the last 5 lines What is being illustrated in this poem? Desire? Companionship? Poetic talent and overall cleverness? The Donnean Lover Misogynist? "Rake" or charmer? Earnest lover? Cynic? "Goe and catch a falling star" and "Love's Alchemy" "The Flea" and "The Sun Rising" "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" "Love's Alchemy," "Love's Diet," etc. Constructions of Gender Masculinity Constructions of Gender Femininity Almost wholly represented in non-religious poems by the speaker
Defining characteristics vary from poem to poem, but mostly vary among wit, confidence, earnestness, and passion
To what degree is masculinity in Donne’s love poetry indebted to courtly love?
What kind(s) of power do the speakers exercise, and to what end(s)? How are women present in Donne’s poetry? Does it differ from poem to poem, or between love poetry and patronage poems?
What is Donne really saying about the constancy of women? Is this message even consistent?
What role, if any, do women play in the construction of masculinity? Does this magnify or diminish women? Investigating Donne's Love Poetry How would you characterize the speaker in the poem? The (implied) audience? The dramatic scenario, if present (whether explicit or implied)?
How is love characterized in the poem?
How is the poem constructing masculinity? Femininity? What is their relationship to one another? I’d like us to all consider the same points in relation to the poems our groups are working on, and then attempt as a class, using your conclusions from group discussions, to answer the question of how Donne’s love poetry characterizes men and (particularly) women, or determine if it is even possible/desirable to arrive at such a characterization. Questions!