John Donne: Quixotic Yet Sacrosanct Essay

1164 words - 5 pages

Love and religion are two of the most common topics of poetry, even though many of Donne’s poems are either on love or religion, two different topic, they are connected thru the continuous use of devices such as allusions, metaphors, and puns; providing a bond for each poem yet each for a different context. “The Flea,” “Holy Sonnet VII”, and “A Hymn to God the Father” each have distinct themes, but find common ground by the use of common literary devices.
Donne consistently uses allusions, usually biblical, throughout his poems. Even in an erotic love poem, he manages to insert that “three lives in one flea spare,” alluding to the Christian idea of The Holy Trinity. In “The Flea,” the speaker sheds his religious values by comparing the three bloods mixed inside of the parasite to God, his Son, and the Holy Spirit. This biblical allusion seems like a paradox, since the speakers tries to pursue an unholy deed by using a spiritual thought. Donne’s use of biblical allusions follows into “Holy Sonnet VII,” with the overall apocalyptic visions that are present in the sonnet. The first three lines of the sonnet begin with an allusion to Judgment day, a reminder that the angels will blow their trumpets and then the humans will “arise, arise/ from death, you numberless infinities.” Not only does this allusion provide a reminder for the end of the world, it also serves as an apostrophe by declaring the angels to “blow your trumpets” and starts a conversation in midst of the sonnet. These multiple biblical allusions from “flood” to “fire” serve a remembrance of previous and future happening to the people of earth. Not only are these allusions reminiscence the sayings of God, they are a way to converse with God, for a “devotional poem can be said to be radically, different from all other kind in at least one respect: it is addressed to God, or to God’s agency in the soul.” (Bellette, 337) Donne maintains the biblical allusions in “A Hymn to God the Father,” using “it were done before” to refer to the first sin that was committed, emphasizing that since God forgave the first sin, he should forgive the speaker’s sins. The speaker uses the poem as a tool to request for forgiveness from God. However, he later contradicts this Christian allusion by the use of a pagan allusion of Fate and the cutting of life threads. This may have been used to describe the speaker’s fear of loss of faith, using an unchristian allusion to pursue the greatness of the speakers fear. Each allusion is used to express a singular event yet still provide a common surface among the poems.
Even though the erotic aspect of “The Flea” and the saintly aspect of “Holy Sonnet VII” will never compare thematically, they both make use of metaphors. Donne makes use of an extended metaphor on marriage in the second stanza in “The Flea” by explaining that the flea represents their “marriage bed, and marriage temple;” clandestinely saying that they are technically allowed to do anything due to their...

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