How does Donne express active (or lack there of) feminine desire in Elegy XIX?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker of the poem outlines and describes his own desire many times, though he never really addresses his lover's feminine sexual desire explicitly. He compares her to an angel, a creature of purity and innocence, and he implies that the act of having sexual intercourse is actually an innocent and pure one rather than something sordid. He says, in part, "As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth'd must be"—our souls are divine and immortal, the closest part of ourselves to God. Just as the soul, "unbodied" (or without the body), is the purest form of ourselves, the body, "uncloth'd" (or without any clothes on—i.e. naked), is the purest our mortal bodies can be. If we take off our clothing, we become naked and nearer to our purest selves.

Further, the speaker tells her to make herself as naked as she would be "to a Midwife," connecting sex to childbearing. It is as though he means to say that because sex leads to children, it is a good and pure activity. Without sex, there can be no babies, and babies are good and pure! Thus, the speaker does not directly address the desire of his female partner, but he assures her again and again that her desire is good because it leads to sex, which is also good.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial