I would like an analysis of John Donne's 'Negative Love'.I can obtain a simple meaning from my point of view, but obviously this does not have the colour or meaning that Donne would have intended,...

I would like an analysis of John Donne's 'Negative Love'.

I can obtain a simple meaning from my point of view, but obviously this does not have the colour or meaning that Donne would have intended, writing from the perspective of his time and the material that he used for reference for him imagery...so I am looking for an explanation that would fit with how he wrote and saw the meaning of the language that he chose in this poem.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I think Donne was describing a way of loving that was more spiritual than material. He often compared loving the Ideal (religious/spiritual) to loving a woman. In other words, he'd say that loving a woman can be idealistic as well. Calling his love "more brave" because he doesn't fully understand it. Something so ideal would be more difficult to comprehend, it would be difficult to describe let alone understand: in fact, this way of loving he describes could only be depicted by saying what it is not ("perfect" as in "ideal"):

If that be simply perfectest,

Which can by no way be expresse'd

But negatives, my love is so.

Then he asks if anyone can describe this indescribable:

If any who deciphers best,

What we know not - ourselves - can know,

Let him teach me that nothing.

The "nothing" that he wants someone to teach him is what we don't know; in this case a way of loving all things as Ideally or as perfectly as one would most likely love perfect things like Heaven, God, or something akin to Plato's Ideal Forms. I guess that he's supposing that loving another person in this ideal way would elevate that love "soar higher."

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