What are the conceits used in the poem "The Bait" by John Donne?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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John Donne often used metaphysical conceits in his poetry.  A conceit is the poet's way of using an unlooked-for or often extremely unlikely object as an extended metaphor or comparison of some greater idea or theme in his poem.  In "The Bait," Donne compares his love relationship to a stream, his lover to a fish, other men to fisherman, and his lover to bait.  Donne's use of detail and color in the first stanza conjures alluring, rich images:

Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
Through his use of conceit, Donne crafts an argument that his love relationship would be smooth running like a stream, warm and lovely.  Of course other fish might try to catch his lover's eye, or fisherman might try to lure her away, but Donne concludes that she is a more powerful bait than any lure or fisherman's artifice.

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