How does Donne use wit and startling imagery in his poems "Batter My Heart" and "The Flea"?

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samson98 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Donne's poems "Batter My Heart" and "The Flea" are filled with wit and startling imagery. In "Batter My Heart"--in which the poet addresses God--his wit manifests in the closing lines:

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

These lines demonstrate Donne's wit because he uses paradoxes to make a point; he can never be free or chaste unless God imprisons and ravishes him. This quote also exhibits very startling imagery; one does not commonly think of the Christian God as "ravishing" anyone.

"The Flea" likewise exhibits Donne's wit and use of startling imagery. Consider the following quote:

This flea is you and I, and this
Our mariage bed, and marriage temple is;

Donne compares the flea to a marriage bed for his beloved and him, since the flea bit both of them and their blood now intermingles within it. This imagery is very shocking, which increases its effectiveness.