1 Answer | Add Yours
It would be easy to look at Donne's religious and love poetry and to think that they are the product of two different authors. On the one hand, Donne's love poetry contains poems of seduction, such as "The Flea," where the speaker tempts his lover to make love to him through using metaphysical conceits, such as the flea's body, to argue that since their blood has already joined inside the flea's body, they might as well make love:
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we are met,
And cloiserted in these living walls of jet.
There is something almost blasphemous in this imagery of describing the flea's body as "our marriage bed" and "marriage temple," which is surprising given Donne's religious poetry, in particular his Holy Sonnets. The word "cloistered" again hints at the misuse of religious description in order to describe something that is less than holy. Compare the context of this poem and its language to the fifth in Donne's sequence of sonnets, where, instead of trying to tempt a woman to make love to him, he recognises himself as sinful and in need of purifying:
Alas, the fire
Of lust and envy have burnt it heretofore,
And made it fouler; let their flames retire,
And burn me.
In spite of the very different sentiment behind these lines, what is similar in both of these works is the use of elaborate metaphors, or conceits, to describe the themes of his poems. In the former it is the flea's body; in the latter, it is flames of sin but also of God's holiness that burn and damage, but both act as examples of Donne's style, even if the content of these two groups of poems are so radically different.
We’ve answered 315,600 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question