John Donne is not only the greatest love poet of his time, but also surpasses the limitation of times. Donne’s greatness as a love-poet arises from the fact that his poetry covers a wider range of emotions. He was the first English poet to challenge and break the supremacy of Petrarchan tradition. Though at times he adopts the Petrarchan devices, yet his imagery and rhythm, texture and color of his love poetry is different. There are three distinct strains of his love poetry – Cynical, Platonic and Conjugal love. The Sun Rising is one of Donne’s popular and widely read love poems. It is love poem of an unusual kind. In this poem the poet lover reprimands the Sun and calls it names for disturbing love making. Here as a lover Donne exaggerates his love and his beloved so much that it overlaps the Petrarchan love poetry also.
He addresses the Sun as “busy old fool”. He calls it unruly because, by peeping in to the bedroom through windows and curtains it disturbs the lovers. The poet-lover tells the Sun that lovers’ seasons do not run to its motions. He advises the Sun to go and do such routine and dull jobs like chiding late-schoolboys and apprentices, waking up court-huntsmen and peasants. Love knows no season, no climates. It is not affected by time. The poet’s wit is so clear when he tells the Sun that he has no reason to think that his beams are “so reverend and strong”. The poet lover could eclipse and could the beams of the Sun with a wink. He does not do so because he does not wish to “loose her right so long.”
He says Thy beams so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink.
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
The poet-lover knows that the Sun would go to the other half of the world and come to that place at this time tomorrow. The poet-lover asks the Sun to go round the world, see all Kings, come back tomorrow and say if “both the India’s of spice and mine” . He says to leave them alone and to let them love. Again, he says, his beloved is represents the whole world, East Indies and the West indies because of her sweet fragrance and her glitter. Here Donne uses highly hyperbolical words for her beloved. He says again that his beloved is all the states and he is the prince of this state, nothing else matter to him, and nothing else exist for him, except he and his beloved. She is all the state, and all princes I Nothing else is.
Furthermore, compared to their love all “honour’s mimick”, all wealth alchemy.” In the latter imagery there is an allusion to the medieval belief in the powers of magic etc. In this particular poem Donne’s praise for his beloved reaches at the height that is incomparable to nothing. However, we find the opposite side of the coin in the poem namely ‘Go and Catch a Falling Star’. Here we find Donne’s duplicity as a lover. In ‘The Sun Rising’ we find Donne passionate and sensuous as a lover, but in Go and Catch a Falling Star he is very much cynical as a lover. He does not believe in true love. We find Donne’s misogynistic attitude here. The poem starts by challenging to catch a falling star. The falling star can signify something bright and beautiful that has come to an end and how difficult it is hold on to this goodness for ever.
It also suggests trying and making a wish and seeing if it comes true. In fact it is as difficult to catch a falling star as it is to ‘get with child a mandrake root’ which shows the stark contrast of getting a child which is something innocent and joyous to a mandrake root which is used in witchcraft to wish death on someone. Again the contrast of living and the positive is contrasted with death and negativity. Donne here presents many impossible tasks and says to find a true woman is as impossible as the tasks are. He says it is impossible to remember the past years, to listen the mermaid song, and to find the person who clove the Devil’s foot. According to Donne, it is impossible to find; a loyal and chaste woman. The poet, through irony and exaggeration suggests the impossibility of the undertaking to discover a true and fair woman. According to him And swear
Lives a woman true, and fair.
He believes fair women will have lovers and therefore it is not possible for them to be faithful to any of them. If anyone ever found then
Though she were true when you met her,
And last till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
To him to find a true and fair woman is not a herculean task rather it is impossible. Here we find the duplicity of Donne. He is here misogynist and believes true love cannot be found because of women’s fickleness. Women are inconsistent and for that reason true love cannot be found, as a woman use to love so many suitors. He criticizes the women race and spares no words to ridicule them. Here his misogynistic attitude shows that he has very little respect for love. In ‘The Sun Rising’ we find him as a pure lover, who believes in solely love.
He praises his beloved and the placed her with the Olympian goddesses. He same Donne in ‘Go and Catch a Falling Star’ shows abominable attitude towards love and towards women race. He skeptically believes that women are neither deities nor fully honest; they possess all the human shortcomings. Thus Donne’s attitude towards women is materialistic, pessimistic, and occasionally misogynistic. This contradictory attitude as a lover makes him unique.
Donne’s love poems are rich with various mood and attitudes. Two opposite sides as a lover is found in this both poems. In one poem he exaggerates his beloved and worshipped her, on the other poem he says women race is perverted race. Two contradictory ideas are given by the same poet. One poem is full of passion and the other is full of abhorrence.
Courtney from Study Moose
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