John Donne Questions and Answers

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What is the NeoPlatonic concept of the link between physical love and spiritual love? Donne's suggestions on the NeoPlatonic concept pf physical and spiritual love?

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In poems like "Loves Growth" and "The Extasie" Donne argues that body and soul should be closely associated for a fulfilling and loving relationsip. Love is therefore conceived as both physical and spiritual. The metaphor of the body as an "allay" (alloy in modern English) in "The Extasie" is telling. The alloy is of little value if it is on its own, but when combined in a compound it greatly enhances the strength of the entire mix. As an alloy, the body must combine with the soul and with man's spiritual dimension to create a meaningful love relationship. If his soul and body cannot support each other, the lover remains "a great Prince" lying "in prison" (a typically Neoplatonic image). In "The Extasie" and "The Canonization", Donne explicitly defines love as a "mysterie", thus stressing its sacred nature.

While Neoplatonism is an important influence on Donne's poetry, its conception of love as made by the harmony between soul and body is not the only definition that we find in the poet's oeuvre. Poems like "The Sunne rising" and "The Anniversary", for example, contain images of physical decay that seem to defy the eternal and the spiritual dimension of love described in other texts.

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