Like many poems by Donne, "The Relic" exhibits his typical combination of passion with cynicism, and religion with impudence and implied skepticism.
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone
is a bit gruesome when one visualizes it, even if it symbolizes the speaker's bond with his mistress (or wife). It also implies possession, and as with Donne's usual depictions of love it is a double-edged sword. Though Donne was a devout man, he always seems to push things to the brink of something heretical in his poetry, allowing earthly sensuality to compete with religion for supremacy. The dead couple
.....thought that this device might be some way
To make their souls at the last busy day
Meet at this grave, and make a little stay.
In other words, the couple's love is so powerful that they will wish to defy Judgment Day, if only for a little while. The second stanza implies, however, that the more important thing for Donne is that this bracelet of hair on his skeleton become a relic, a...
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