In his poems, John Donne often addresses love as an overlapping between the spiritual and the physical—as something, that is, that occurs in concert between the souls and bodies of two lovers. In “The Ecstasy,” Donne describes love as the joining of two souls in perfect harmony.
As ’twixt two equal armies fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
Were gone out) hung ’twixt her and me.
In this quotation, the poem’s speaker compares the meeting of two souls in love with the meeting of “two equal armies.” While this may seem a combative simile at first glance, given war’s usual connotations of aggression and violence, the poem’s context allows the metaphor to be interpreted as one of connection among equals: a point of contact which does not end, but rather “suspends” something between the two sides. The metaphor may be even more complex than this, in fact: just as a war is an abstract idea created by the encounter between two armies in opposition, love is a creation of two souls, held between two bodies, as they meet.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
We said, and tell us what we love . . .
This second quotation continues the idea of the poem. The “ecstasy” is the state of blissful, transcendental love that exists between the two souls, and it is so perfect and clear as to “unperplex” the complications of the world. In other words, the lovers’ love is synonymous with peace and clarity. It simplifies the complications or perplexities of life.
A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.
This third quotation draws upon the symbol of a “single violet” to represent the beauty and the blossoming of the love between the speaker and the addressee. The violet is mentioned in the opening stanza, but was then “poor and...
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