"I Long To Talk With Some Old Lover's Ghost"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "Love's Deity" is in John Donne's best paradoxical style. He says that he wishes he could talk with some old lover's ghost who lived in an ancient age when love, to be love, had to be reciprocal. But in Donne's day it is the fashion to love ladies who scorn those who love them; this custom of scorning love was elaborated upon in many of the Elizabethan sonnet cycles, to which "Love's Deity" is in large measure a reaction. Donne wishes that the god of love could be disenthroned so that reciprocal love could come back in style. But he then says that Love could do much worse than he has already done: he might cause the poet to stop loving or make the lady he loves love him in return. In other words, the poet says that reciprocity in love, the lack of which he lamented at the beginning of the poem, is the last situation he wants. He begins his poem thus:

I long to talk to some old lover's ghost,
Who died before the god of love was born.
I cannot think that he, who then loved most,
Sunk so low as to love one which did scorn.