Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Rave on, John Donne ...

John Donne's memorial at St. Paul's
If there is any rival at all for Shakespeare as the most gifted, fluid, clever, and yet substantive poet of the English Renaisance, it can be no other that John Donne. In the secular world, his racy, seductive verses positively pulsed with vivid life, and if they had been his only literary remains, his reputation would have stood nearly as high. But it is his sacred verse, sermons, and meditations, all composed after he had turned toward a religious life, that secure his ultimate reputation, and which have leant the language some of its most memorable phrases. "Ask not, for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee!" Death, and its anticipation, were as great a gift to Donne as life had been; he famously posed in his funeral shroud for his own coffin's portrait, and had the lid propped up in his study at old St. Paul's cathedral, where he was Dean. The carved effigy above is based on that same portrait, and had a miraculous second life of its own: When old St. Paul's was destroyed by fire in 1666, his was the only effigy that survived intact, falling into the crypt but remaining upright. It was, of course, installed in the new St. Paul's, where it remains to this day.

Donne's poetry, along with that of his fellow "metaphysical" poets, was for some time neglected, but was salvaged by no less a fellow poet than T.S. Eliot, whose 1921 essay brought them back into high esteem. It was no coincidence that Eliot, like Donne, had had a mid-life conversion to the Anglican faith, one which at once abstracted and heightened both their spiritual dimensions. But Donne, it seems likely, was a more comfortably ribald and lively poet, pre-conversion, than the awkward Eliot ever was; part of the pleasure of his verse lies in contrasting a beautiful piffle such as "The Flea" with the sonorous sentiments of the Holy Sonnets. Along the way, we'll pause to consider "Song (‘Go and catch a falling star’)," "The Sun Rising," "Love's Alchemy," and "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning."

20 comments:

  1. I find John Donne's "The Flea" to be very comical. It seems to me that the tone of the poem is very desperate. It is as if he has been trying to convince the woman to sleep with him for a while, and using the flea is a desperate attempt to make any argument that he possible can to convince her to seize the moment. I also find it sad but funny when she crushes the flea. It is sad because it completely crushes the man's hopes, but I still hear a comical undertone to the end.
    -Becca Clark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see how the comical theme is brought up in John Donne's "The Flea" but I believe it to be more dramatic and romantic in a way. I see the use of metaphors and dramatic language to show the love she had for he flea in not wanting to kill it. Then in the end when she crushes it the dramatic use of language that shows it was meant to happen. Even if the fly was not killed you see the lady would not have slept with him anyways.

      Delete
  2. I agree, this is a comical poem, while it is also dramatic. His main point is for the woman to have nothing to fear from having sex with him. Its comes to be funny when she kills the poor innocent fly not knowing what that meant to him.- Jaimee Barrett

    ReplyDelete
  3. John Donne's, "The Flea", is very comical yet dramatic at the same time. There is a hidden meaning that he used the flea to convey to the woman, but she does not understand it. He is trying to get the woman to sleep with him and compares them to the blood in flea, saying that they are one. The woman ignores the man's attempt at getting her to sleep with him and crushes the flea, along with his hopes.
    ~Samantha Wellington

    ReplyDelete
  4. I find it fascinating that Donne is able to write such poems about love in varying fashion. Whereas the Flea is comical, Song seems a touch more "poetic" as one would usually expect. By this I mean that, he uses metaphors and strong language. I feel as though the Holy Sonnets resonanted more with his contemporary readership, as many argue that the modern world seems to have abandoned religion to a degree, and therefore it is not as gripping as it may have been in Donnes time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Donne can pretty much make anything into a romance, and it amazes me. for example, using a flea and trying to keep it alive just like trying to keep a romance alive, so when they finally kill the flea, they say it was kind of meant to be, because even if he didn't kill the flea the lady wouldn't have slept with him anyways.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I found Donne's poetry to be very descriptive and beautifully written. "The Flea" created this perfect image in my mind of a flea joining two people together. Donne writes "This flea is you and I, and this /Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is". When his lover kills the flea, it is the symbolic representation of their relationship ending and being killed. It is amazing that Donne was able to take a creature as small as a flea and create a beautiful and heart-breaking love story in only a few short stanzas of poetry. In these lines, we see his desperate cry to hold on to their relationship and the symbolism that he feels lies within the two of them. The poem ends with the flea, and ultimately his relationship dying. Donne's imagery and symbolism helped to create a tragic love story.
    -Sarah Basler

    ReplyDelete
  7. I admire Donne's views on death. He faces it head on with out fear of what is to come because it is in fact inevitable. In "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" he expresses this and and wants those that love him to know that if they did love him not to be sad when he is gone because this was to come eventually.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The “Sun Rising” by John Donne, captures how everyone feels when the sun hits the curtains in the morning. Annoyed. “Busy old fool, unruly sun..” describes how the sun is old yet it still hits every part of the world for every person to see. He goes on to discuss how the sun might not be as happy as a happy couple in love but the sun shines and warms the world which is something love can also do.
    Jenna Cipriano

    ReplyDelete
  9. John Donne was a pleasure to read. The way he brings the words to life really capture what he is trying to say but also imply. The Flea being such a literal thing with such heavy symbolism. Donne offers amazing contrast.
    -Skyler Davis

    ReplyDelete
  10. John Donne's "The Flea" automatically has a sort of erotic take on live from the first few lines: "MARK but this flea, and mark in this,/How little that which thou deniest me is ;/It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,/And in this flea our two bloods mingled be." By this first line, Donne illustrates seduction by simply using a common flea. It is clear that Donne is trying to push the theme of love and seduction, but it is obstructed by his choice of using a flea. The irony and humor of the piece by using a flea gives a different view on the concept of love and seduction.

    - Crystal Agyemang

    ReplyDelete
  11. Donne is a real romantic, you can tell just how he lays out his thoughts and the way he uses metaphors in his writing. His language is strong but very smooth. I like the way Donne write’s about a tragic love story using a Flea as a symbol of these two people in a relationship. When the flea dies, the relationship dies, it’s hard to make a story romantic using a flea but it seemed like it was easy for Donne.
    - Emma Guglielmi

    ReplyDelete
  12. John Donne poetry was very entertaining to read. I found "The Flea," to be very descriptive and written really well. In the beginning of the poem it seems as though the speaker is talking about a random flea that seems insignificant. However, as the poem goes on, the flea symbolizes relationships/marriage. Seeing that the flea sucks the speaker's blood and then his loved one, making the blood be mixed together. He uses the idea of both sharing blood signifying a union between a married couple.

    ReplyDelete
  13. In John Donne's poem, The Flea, Donne uses grotesque imagery to, ironically, seduce a woman. The wording he uses such as, "It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,/And in this flea our two bloods mingled be," is so descriptive it creates a disturbing image that one would expect to cause disgust. And yet I believe the writing is so cunning and sly that it would have the opposite effect on a potential love interest and work in Donne's favor. Instead of outright stating that the woman in question should sleep with him, he uses metaphors and images to provoke and interest her. While I still find this poem disturbing as I associate fleas with rotting and disease, Donne managed to push the idea of what is seductive and provoking.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have never heard of John Donne before but I really enjoyed his poem, the Flea, and it gave me that same feeling of reading one of Shakespeare's poems, where your pretty much on your own in depicting what every line means and making connections. The Flea was very interesting and struck my curiosity, having to read back a few times over to try and get an idea of what was being said. John Donne also seems to have a much more trivial attitude and kind of sounded sarcastic in some of the lines. Im still kind of cloudy on what he is relating to the flea to though, at one point I thought he was talking about a prostitute but now I'm second guessing myself. Either was I enjoyed reading it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The first thing I noticed about this poem was the way it was organized. I notice how the poem is organized into three stanzas as the poet also talks about the three lives of the flea. This poem is organized completely different to "The Sun Rising" although I think the organization for that poem is very fitting. It has a lot of movement and takes you with the poem. In "The Flea" I think we all can agree that it is a bit dramatic but I like how he uses a flea, of all things, to tell a story. He basically tries to use this new tactic as a way of being "romantic" and trying to get the woman to sleep with him. His commentary is actually funny when he compares the "honor" of killing the flea to sleeping with him.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I like this poem for how they used the flea. The speaker thought that since there is nothing wrong with flea having both his and his lover blood then there is nothing wrong with somthing like pre marital activities. He tried to save the fly on that point, but when his lover kills the flea nothing really changes. A funny but very unique poem.
    Richard young

    ReplyDelete
  17. The john Donne poem was written beautiful even during the 20th century. while reading the poem i was able to get that it is about relationships and marriage. The sun symbolizes happy couple in love. When the sun shines it warms everyones heart which is what love can also do.

    Erica Jackley

    ReplyDelete
  18. The flea is comical and has whitty undertones to it. I like the poem mostly because it’s funny, (and the humor still translates well in today’s time), while also being romantic. I’m intrigued by the use of humor in poetry because it’s not that common of a device. It’s definitely not bland like other poems written during this time. It plays into the human emotion because women tend to really love a guy with a sense of humor. Overall it was a creative and well written poem, and an enjoyable read.

    ReplyDelete
  19. https://literaryinformations.blogspot.com/?m=1

    ReplyDelete