Sunday, November 7, 2010

Discuss the variety of moods in which Donne treats love in his poetry. (P.U. 2004)

Donne’s love poetry is chiefly remarkable for the range and variety of mood and attitude that it presents. There are poems which exhibit a cynicism and contempt for love which seems surprising in the light of other poems which so beautifully express the serene joy of mutual passion between man and woman.

At the lowest level, or rather the simplest level, there is the expression of the sensual aspect of love. Here there is the celebration of the physical appetite, notably presented in the Elegies. Love if merely considered in the physical sense is not much more than lust, which is subject to change and decay. Thus the falseness of the mistresses, the jealousies and the fickleness.
On another level are the poems dealing with mutually enjoyed love between man and woman. In this case there is a joy and contentment, expressed in poems such as The Sun Rising, The Good-Morrow or The Anniversarie.
On the highest level are the poems which present love as a holy passion which sanctifies the lovers. Examples are The Ecstasy, The Canonization, and The Undertaking.
The tone of the poems naturally varies according to the attitude presented. He may be harsh and defiant; even coarse and brutal; or he may reflect the serenity of feeling in measured and weighty music.
Donne could handle sensual love in all its aspects, from the bitterness of desire thwarted, to the fleeting paradise of love fulfilled. But he did more than this. He also celebrates that rare love in which the senses are but vehicles and mating is a “marriage of true minds”. He could conceive of and express a love which, though it belongs as much to the body as to the mind, is strong in absence and even independent of external beauty. The relation between mind and body, the security of a love in which that relation has been fully established, and the unity of love are the themes of Donne’s mature poems. Often enough, a number of moods are mixed up in the same poem.

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