One aspect of John Donne's love poetry that sets him apart from his contemporaries is his wider range of emotions that are conveyed because he writes from personal experience, whereas other poets of his time tended to be "bookish," employing the traditional forms of their time. Original in presenting various moods in his poetry, Donne probably drew from his many affairs--some short-lived, others lasting--with women of whom he often writes in hyperbolic (exaggerated) terms as in "The Sunne Rising" in which he speaks of the woman as an "Angell...beyond an Angels art." While some of his poems express the physical love in spiritual terms--
So must pure lovers soules descend/T'affections, and to faculties/That sense may reach and apprehend--
others are even somewhat grotesque in their passion. For example, in his "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," Donne writes,
If they be two, they are two so/As stiffe twin encompasses two,/Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show/to move, but doth, if th'other doe.
Because his love poetry is written from his personal experiences, Donne's poetry is much less conventional, ignoring the traditional Petrarchan form. In addition, Donne approaches his love poetry with a sense of equality in the relationship with his female love. This attitude, also, is not traditional for his time as many poems were written with the idea of Courtly Love, one in which the lover is unsuccessful. For instance, he writes, "My face in thine eyes thine in mine appears." In "The Sunne Rising," Donne expresses the idea of two becoming an all-sufficient one, with no need of the outside world:
She' is all States, and all Princes, I/Nothing else is.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;/This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy spheare.
For Donne, love is the quintessential value; it transcends all others. In "The Canonization," there is no place or need for wealth and glory in the world of love:
With wealth your state, your minde with Arts improve,/Take you a course, get you a place,/Observe his honour, or his grace,/Or the Kings reall, or his stamped face/Contemplate; what you will, approve/So you will let me love.
Indeed, the poets of Donne's century learned much from his poetry in which true emotions are expressed by ideas, and ideas defined by their emotional context. (enotes)
Surprisingly, I find Donne to be an underrated poet of love. Through his metaphysical exploration of what is and what could be, Donne revealed different aspects of love's components. I think that, like many thinkers of the time, Donne was concerned with how to quantify and qualify that which is difficult to articulate. He was able to suggest that love could be soulful expressions, bodily sensations, or elements in between both. Donne was prone to using metaphors as a way to describe love. In its own right, this was fairly radical as he understood that there was little in terms of language that could replicate "what love is," but there were multiple ways to express its experience. In reading his poems, I would focus on how he is able to redescribe the experience of love as something that possesses meaning and understanding, attempt to define that which might have remained undefinable.
How does donne present love in air and angels, valedictions , anniversarie and elegy his mistress going to bed