Metaphysical Imagery In The Works Of John Donne

2654 words - 11 pages

Metaphysical poetry is a blend of passionate feelings and paradoxical style. John Donne is believed to be one of the best of metaphysical poets. There are many examples of metaphysical imagery in the works of John Donne. The metaphysical imagery of John Donne will be brought into view by the examples he used throughout his poetry.Donne begins "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" by indicating a preference for their departure to be unobtrusive, to be as restrained as possible in their parting, by using an analogy between the couple and "virtuous men." He describes,As virtuous men pass mildly away,And whisper to their souls to go,Whilst some of their sad friends do say,The breath goes now, and some say, no [...]. (1-4)Through descriptions of "mildly" and "whisper" he reveals his wish for their separation to be as temperate as possible. Donne calls for a similar restraint in their passing, for no fuss, tears or sighs, referring to the typical hyperbolic lovers and using them as a vision of how not to act, "So let us melt and make no noise, / No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move [...]" (5-6). Here the intellectual begins to take over the sentimentality, or impulsiveness of the scene, "Donne perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softness of love" (Bennett 1).So let us melt, and make no noise,No teare-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,T'were prophanation of our joyesTo tell the layetie our love [...]. (5-8)The word "melt" implies a change in physical state. The bond of lovers will dissolve quietly. "Noise" refers to "tear floods" and "sigh tempests" that the speaker pleads with his love not to leave. He continues by comparing natural phenomena to a love relationship, the "sigh tempest" relating to the element of the air, and the "tear floods" to the element of water. He uses this hyperbole to demand that his lover remain unemotional upon his departure. It is exactly this that defines the style of metaphysical poetry, as images of truthfulness or those to delight the senses are not included, he takes the more intellectual viewpoint, suppressing the emotion of the scene. This has the effect of surprising the reader, as it is so unexpected in what is a quite conventional love scene. "One of the greatest images in metaphysical poetry comes in the seventh stanza, as Donne compares their love to a pair of compasses" (Bennett 3). He states, "If they be two, they are two so /As stiff twin compasses are two [...]" (25-26). At first, this comparison seems highly unromantic, not one that would be used to comfort a love on a period of separation. It is though, testament to Donne's command over intellectual thought, and metaphysical wit that this at first absurd idea can translate into one of the most stunning and sincere assertions of love and sentiment. Donne's intellect works as he uses the opening and shutting image of compasses to reassure his love that they are...

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