Showing posts with label John Donne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Donne. Show all posts

Friday, May 7, 2010

‘The Good Morrow’ by John Donne-a Flawless Metaphysical Poem

‘The Good Morrow’ is a typical Donnian love poem, divided into three stanzas. It’s one of those love poems in which he praises the spiritual relationship between men and women and hails it so ardently.

In the opening stanza, the poet expresses his wonder as to what he and his beloved did before they fell in love with each other. He becomes surprised remembering their past love experiences. He compares the love experiences of himself and his beloved with `weaning’, falsely sucking country pleasures’ and `snorting.’ The reference to these three physical activities indicates that they spent a life of worldly enjoyment. But now the poet using the conjunction ‘But’ makes a contrast and say’s that all these past physical activities seem to be utterly meaningless. The closing two lines of the first stanza imply that though the poet indulged himself in ‘country pleasures’, he has never been unmindful to perfect beauty of ideal spiritual love, which he always desired and has finally ‘got’ in his present beloved.

Obviously there is a shift from physical to spiritual love, sleeping to waking period, sensuous appearances to ideal reality and as if from platonic cave to the world of light in the poet and his beloved. Here the poet seems to have touched the metaphysics of Plato. In his metaphysics, Plato at first takes something concrete such as man, but soon he leaps into abstract namely the Form of man. Similarly Donne also begins with physical love and soon he turns to Platonic or metaphysical love.

The first stanza contains several Donnian elements. It opens abruptly with an explosive question. This abrupt colloquial beginning, which is so characteristic of Donne startles us and captures our attention. Another noticeable thing is that Donne swears his true relation – ‘I wonder by my troth’. Here he is unconventional. Any of his contemporary of Elizabethan poets might swear to God, but Donne has not done it. Then there are the references of physical union and the use of imageries in the following three lines. The fourth line contains a legendary conceit,a legend that tells of seven young men of Ephesus who took refuge in a cave during the persecution of Diocletian and were entombed there. They were found alive two centuries later. Here Donne compares himself and his beloved with the seven sleepers. Here he is cynical when he utters the word ‘did’. Surely the word ‘did’ includes the connotations of sexual doing – what did we ever do with the time?

The second stanza begins with hail and celebration. The unconscious past of flesh is over and a new conscious spiritual relationship begins. So the speaker cerebrates the present. “Now good morrow to our waking souls”. He also makes declaration that their souls have also learnt not to spy one another. That the married women or men involve in extra-marital affair was a dominant theme in the Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. So, fear only works in sensual lovers as motivation for watching over each other, least the other should become unfaithful to his or her mate. But the speaker and his beloved have overcome this fear and a peaceful satisfaction prevails their love. And for their faithful love they will control the temptations of other things. They love so faithfully and ardently that their love has the force to be merged into the universal love and to move out to become “an every where”.

As spiritual lovers, the poet and his beloved are indifferent to earthly pleasures and possessions – let the sea-lovers and map-lovers do what they like to do. The lovers want to be happy with their joint world though they have their individual worlds but their individual worlds are fused into a single world. Now they are the joint owners of a single world.

Here in this stanza, we find the presence of imagery from the contemporary geographical world. That is to say the contemporary geographical interest of the explorers.

The third stanza opens with endearing words from the speaker. The two lovers stand so closely that their respective faces are reflected in each others eyes. The simplicity of their heart is also reflected in their faces, which are conceived as two hemispheres of their world. But their world of love is so unearthly that its hemispheres are free from coldness and decay. They are not afraid of separation or break up of their “relation, because” ‘what ever dyes, was not mixt equality’. The ingredients of their love have been proportionately mixed and there is no ware and woof between them. They have love equally and proportionately.

Thus the poem ends with the establishment of true friendship. After an abrupt beginning, there is calmness at last. The couple has rejected the country pleasures and entered into a true inter-dependent friendship. They have renounced the mundane world in order possess an unearthly world. Experience has thought them that the true happiness can be achieved through a mutual spiritual friendship.

In the first stanza, there is the regret for past doings, in the second stanza the pleasure of discovering something in the last stanza, the prospect/hope of doing better/using the discovery. The abrupt beginning of the poem, the use of conceits form everyday life and myth in the first stanza, the geographical reference of stanza two, the use of scholastic philosophy in stanza three, and ultimately the emphasis of spiritual love continue to make it one of those poems of Donne which combine intellect and emotion. These above motioned qualities have made the poem get a certain place in honored, treasured lyrics written by John Donne.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Use of Imageries in Donne's Poetry

Donne shows great originality in using imageries in his poetry. Imagery means the making of pictures in word. An imagery may consist of conceit, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, allusion and other figures of speech. Donne draws his images from various fields of knowledge such as –astronomy, geology, chemistry, physiology, law and theology. Most far fetched objects and concepts are juxtaposed in his imagery. It is through the use of imagery that Donne achieves the unification of sensibility.

Examples of imagery are to be found in 'The Flea', 'Good Morrow', 'Sunne Rising', 'Canonization', 'Twickman Garden' and 'A Valediction Forbiding Mourning'.

In 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning', for example, we get the imagery of compass. Here the parted lovers are compared to the two legs of a compass. Then Donne compares the two souls of the lovers with the unity of a lump of gold. When the gold is beaten it does not break into pieces, but spreads out. Similarly their separation from each other does not mean a break in their love. Moreover, it will make their love more spiritual, refined and eternal.

Donne’s most popular poem The Flea is famous for extraordinary uses of Imagery. Donne compares the body of the flea to a “temple” and “Marriage bed”. The bloods of the lover and beloved have been united together in its body as they are united through marriage in a church. So its body is a temple in which they have been married. The respective blood of the lover and the beloved mingle through the sexual intercourse. Now they have become mingled in the flea, so its body is their marriage bed. So, she must not kill the flea, as it will be a sin, a sacrilege and triple murder. Through the imagery we see how argumentative Donne is.

In Good Morrow image like-“snorted we in the seven sleepers den” takes us to the cave in which seven young Christians because of the fear of persecution, took refuge in a cavern where they fell asleep and woke up about two centuries later. Then we find the images of “sea discoverers”, traveling to new worlds, and two hemispheres. Donne sees the macrocosm in the microcosm-the great in the small-and the geographical discoveries of his day are pressed into services to establish the superiority of the world of love.

The novelty of images may also be noted in The Sunne Rising also. The sun here is imagined to be a saucy, pedantic wretch who is called upon to go and scold late school boys, court huntsmen and country ants. Our days, months are here regarded as the rags of time.

In Canonization the poet and his beloved are canonized. As the saints are canonized for their devotion to God and renunciation of worldly pleasures, so also lovers will be canonized for their devotion to each other and renunciation the world for each of them. The other imagery consists in the analogies where the lovers are liked first to flies and tapers and then to eagle and Dove and finally to the Phoenix.

There are secular images drawn in Twickman Garden. The poet’s love is compared to a spider that converts manna to gall and his jealousy is the serpent that makes his garden(twickman garden)an equivalent of Paradise, where Eve was tempted to taste the forbidden fruit by Satan in the guise of a serpent. Secondly, the poet would like to be changed into a mandrake so that he can continue to groan in his distress as mandrakes were supposed to cry out in agony when uprooted. The poet also fountain, the water of which falls continuously in the form of shedding tears. Thirdly, the poet’s tears are the wine of love. Lovers are asked to taste the poet’s tears and then taste their mistress’s tears. If the taste is no the same it means that their mistresses tears are false.

Donne’s imagery reveals the width of his intellectual explorations. However, not all imagery of Donne is so far-fetched, abound and fantastic. Much of Donne’s imagery is drawn from the world of every day commerce, trade and industry.