What is Donne's view on love and woman ?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The answer to this question could all depend on which of his many poems you wanted to believe reveal his attitude. He is well known for his love poems, and in those he is very much in praise of women and several of the poems talk about equality in a good relationship, but he also has several poems that have do not take love very seriously. Here are some thoughts you could gather from a few of his more famous poems:

1. "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"

This poem was reportedly written by Donne to his wife just before he had to leave on a business trip and leave her behind due to her pregnancy. This poem is a poignant love poem that establishes the surpremancy of their love in comparison to what he calls "dull sublunary lovers" who only love because they have phsyical contact with one another. He clearly loves his wife and compares their love to gold that "endures not yet a breach, but an expansion." He later compares their relationship to the two legs of a compass. He explains that she is the fixed foot that is always connected, and he is the foot that "runs" but keeps him firm and guides his return home at the end of his journey. From this poem, you could surmise that he has high regard for women, or at least his wife.

2. "The Good-Morrow"

Here again, the speaker has high praise for the lover. He starts the poem discussing how any love they had before each other was merely childish and in preparation for the relationship they have now. He establishes an equality in the relationship when he states that the two of them are "two better hemispheres / Without sharp North, without declining West." They are two halves, but not really divisible.

3. "The Sun Rising"

Here the speaker is in bed with his love and is telling the sun to go away and not disturb them. He loves being with his love, but eventually realizes that the two of them are their own world, in a way, and therefore "She is all states, and all princes I, / Nothing else is. . . the world's contracted thus." So when the sun does its job of warming the world, "that's done in warming us." This poem expresses high regard for the love and their relationship.

On the other side of the coin are the poems that express a more negative view of love and women. For example:

1. "The Flea"

The speaker is trying to convince a young woman to have a sexual relationship with him, and his argument rests on the fact that a flea as bitten both of them, their blood is mixed in the flea, and therefore it is almost as if they are married (are one) in the flea. What makes this a negative poem is the fact that the woman doesn't have feelings for the man. In fact "parents grudge, and you" meaning that she isn't going to be persuaded and doesn't want to be persuaded by the absurdity of this argument. He persists through the end of the whole poem.

2. "The Indifferent"

The theme of this poem is infidelity. The speaker is clearly stating that he has no intention of being faithful and he even calls fidelity a vice. As part of his argument in favor of this attitude he alludes to Venus, who, as he tells it, did some research and found that constancy is dangerous and that anyone who is constant and faithful in love is destined and punished to be with someone who is not faithful and true. This doesn't represent a very traditional attitude about love and the importance of fidelity.


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