Term Paper: Metaphysical Poetry of John Donne

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[. . .] This poem is again juxtaposed with the extreme spiritual optimism of "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," where the poet affirms the faith he has struggled through a lifetime to acquire. It is the completeness of both romantic love and spiritual truth.

This is also done in "The Flea," where the poet compares human life and death to the "murder" of a flea. The image appears trivial, but combined with the importance of human life, the effect is profound. Donne here finds meaning and perfection in the smallest thing, and even in repulsive things. The almost sexual image of the flea mixing the blood of lovers in its belly is conceivably repulsive to the 17th century reader. This may be tied in once again with the poet's profound insecurity in established rules of religion. By breaking the "rules" prevalent in the poetic genre of the time, Donne can be seen to rebel in the only way he is able to against the spiritual constraints that have been part of his whole life.

It is interesting that Donne's love poetry forms such a contrast with his religious poetry. It is as if in love Donne was able to express himself much more sincerely and profoundly than in his love for God. Like the lovers in "The Canonization"[6] the poet appears to be able to separate completely the concept of romantic love from both life in general and from religion. It was thus for him something pure and completely untainted by either death or sin.

It can thus be said that poetically John Donne found a much more fulfilling aspect of life in his relationship with his wife than in his relationship with God. The two relationships were however also intermingled, as Anne was for him the inspiration towards holiness. The fact remains that all of the poems created by this artist retains a profound beauty, and captures the spirit of his age with a depth that will be meaningful in the centuries to come.

The apparent parody of this poem can then also be seen as a "violent yoke." Lovers are placed on the same level as saints, who are by definition free of the constraints of romantic and physical love.


Brooks, C. "The Language of Paradox." In The Language of Poetry. Edited by Allen Tate. New York: Russell & Russell, 1960.

Eliot, T.S. "The Metaphysical Poets." In Selected Essays. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1934.

Gardner, H. "The Religious Poetry of John Donne." In John Donne, A Collection of Critical Essays. Edited by Helen Gardner. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentic-Hall, Inc., 1962.

Gardner, H. Religion and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Winny, J. A Preface to Donne. London: Longman, 1981.


Donne, John:

Valediction Forbidding Mourning. http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/mourning.htm

Holy Sonnets." http://members.aol.com/ericblomqu/donne.htm

Love's Infiniteness. http://oldpoetry.com/poetry/7568

Love's Usury. http://www.online-literature.com/donne/344/

The Canonization. http://www.online-literature.com/donne/345/

The Flea. http://vp.engl.wvu.edu/Aloud/conread.html

The Paradox." http://www.online-literature.com/donne/386/

The Will." http://www.online-literature.com/donne/375 [END OF PREVIEW]

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