John Donne's Songs and Sonnets Questions and Answers
by John Donne

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Please explain Donne's songs and sonnets.

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There is a collection of poetry by English poet John Donne entitled Songs and Sonnets. Published in 1633, it mainly contains his love poetry, usually called "sonnets" in the interpretation of "love lyrics" rather than in reference to form or style. John Donne's love poems were those of a young man, freshly let loose upon the world with all it's delioghts and temptations, so the sonnets often concern romantic love, attraction and passionate themes. Later, after he married Anne More, he toned them down - not only because of her but out of deference perhaps to his worthy new status as the clergyman Dean of St Paul's. Many of the sonnets talk of love and the pursuit of it in the most beautiful terms and clever ideas (conceits).

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Songs and Sonnets is a collection of metaphysical poetry by the young John Donne.  It can be found online at  Enotes says,

We do not know for sure when John Donne wrote his love poetry, because although it circulated in manuscripts during his lifetime, it was not published until two years after his death in Songs and Sonnets. (1633)

The collection contains Donne's most widely anthologized poem "The Flea."

The young John Donne was a ladies man, a lover whose metaphysical conceits shocked the poetry establishment.  Songs and Sonnets reveal Donne's fascination with physical union between man and woman.  Instead of bawdy sex poetry, Donne elevates his language so that--on first read--it doesn't seem like love-making at all.  Thus, the term "metaphysical": his imagery transcends the physical laws of nature to express a wide range of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual responses to the acts of love.

So says a critic on Literature-Online:

John Donne's Songs and Sonnets do not describe a single unchanging view of love; they express a wide variety of emotions and attitudes, as if Donne himself were trying to define his experience of love through his poetry. Love can be an experience of the body, the soul, or both; it can be a religious experience, or merely a sensual one, and it can give rise to emotions ranging from ecstasy to despair. Taking any one poem in isolation will give us a limited view of Donne's attitude to love, but treating each poem as part of a totality of experience, represented by all the Songs and Sonnets, it gives us an insight into the complex range of experiences that can be grouped under the single heading 'Love'.

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