The Ecstasy Characters
by John Donne

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The Ecstasy Characters

The Physical Bodies of the Lovers 

The two lovers are physically sitting on the bank of a river. Their hands are clasped together, and their eyes lock in to the other's gaze. As their souls leave their bodies to meet between in the creation of one larger, single soul, their physical bodies are left behind, silent and unmoving:

And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.

They are physically content. The physical bodies of the lovers are important in that they provide the medium in which love can be tangibly experienced. The narrator also notes that the physical body has a

need to knit
That subtle knot which makes us man.

The lovers use their physical bodies to both express the love borne out of their souls, leaving no "great prince in prison."

The Souls of the Lovers

In this poem, the souls of the lovers act independently of their bodies. They "negotiate" this proposition of love while the bodies are left below. In this union, there is a melding of the souls into one being which cannot be then undone:

he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same . . .

The desires of the two souls are now the same; they speak the same language and have the same aspirations. The power of this new soul is enough to control loneliness through unification. Who, after all, can be lonely when it is no longer possible to ever be alone? The souls transcend the power of the bodies and hold them in union even when physically apart. Only after this union of souls do the lovers turn to a physical manifestation of love:

So must pure lovers' souls descend
T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend . . .

Although love is borne of the union of souls, it can only be sensually felt through the body. The soul, then, is the ultimate source of love, which is then expressed by the body:

Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.

The "negotiations" of "equal armies" of the lovers' souls drives the underlying ecstasy that they can experience physically.