Sunday, November 7, 2010

In his love poetry, Donne exhibits a more varied range of feelings than the Elizabethans. Moreover, his imagery, diction and versification are startlingly different. Discuss. (P.U. 2003)

When Donne began writing, the Elizabethan tradition had reached the point of satiation. The Elizabethan love poetry, specially sonneteering, was based wholly on the Petrarchan style. It involved the theme of woman-worship expressed in sugar-coated language. It was full of allusions to gods and goddesses of mythology. Furthermore, the emotion and feeling in the Petrarchan style of love poetry written by the later Elizabethan seemed artificial and lacking in passion. When we come to Donne, however, we are immediately struck by a pleasant change. In practically every aspect, he rebelled against prevailing tradition and broke new grounds.

Rebel against creed of woman-worship and chivalry
Donne’s love poems get rid of the theme of woman-worship so dominant in earlier poetry. He does not write about woman as if she were a goddess above the reach of ordinary man. In his poems woman is also an ordinary human being, capable of love as well as desire and very well able to deceive and be inconstant. The Message mocks at women for their “forced fashions and false passions.” In the song, Go and catch a falling star, Donne playfully treats the theme of woman’s inability to remain faithful. In The Apparition he calls the woman he loves, “a murderess”—a glaring departure from the Petrarchan style. In this poem we see how Donne’s treatment of a familiar theme in love poetry differs from the traditional style. It is common to find the lover languishing because of the beloved’s rejection of his love. But the expression here is original, because, the emotion expressed is not sentimental disappointment but a vigorous sense of revenge.
The contents of Donne’s poems express a mood of cynicism
This is in direct contrast with the mode of Petrarchan tradition as expressed in Sidney’s sonnets or Spenser’s Amoretti. Donne’s Elegies, especially the one To His Mistress Going to Bed, are frankly sensual. He does not flinch from expressing his desire to let his hands move over every part of the beloved’s body. A Petrarchan would have been horrified at such lines as:
Full nakedness: All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclolh’d must be,
To taste whole joys.
Such a sentiment would have seemed heresy to a Petrarchan to whom his lady’s body would be a sanctity beyond such unholy contemplation.
Donne’s treatment of love in his poems is quite different from earlier Elizabethan convention. The Relique is, in fact, a love poem, but a most unconventional one. In The Flea, he playfully tries to seduce the lady through elaborate and false logic.
Joy of Love
Donne is not different from the Elizabethans merely in being cynical and sensual in his treatment of love. In the best of his love poems, he expresses the sweet contentment of true love between man and woman. Even here he departs from Petrarchan convention; for the Petrarchan never dealt with love fulfilled, but only with the sorrow of absence, the pain of rejection, the unwavering cruelty of the incomparably beautiful lady. Donne, however, speaks in many of his poems of the joy of mutual passion. In The Good-Morrow, The Canonization, The Sun Rising, The Anniversarie, etc., he expresses the delight of mutual love-making, without reference to outside interference, and with no hint of inadequacy in the beloved. Indeed, the triumphant close of The Anniversarie is the assertion of a satisfied need. His poems often explore the relation between body and soul in sexual love. A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is a poem about parting between lovers, but the .mode of expression is unconventional. There is a note of sincerity and true and intense passion in Donne’s love poems which was not quite there in Elizabethan love poems.
Rebel in language
Another area in which Donne departs from earlier convention is, of course, in the language and imagery used. His poetry is as full of allusions as earlier poetry, but the sources are much more varied and unconventional. The separation of lovers is expressed in terms of an image of the two legs of a compasses. Gods and goddesses of mythology find little place in Donne’s love poems. He makes use of images and allusions from contemporary discoveries and explorations, the science and speculations of the new age, scholastic theory and alchemy and astrology and even law. They are erudite, fanciful (sometimes far-fetched) images. At the same time, the language is realistic, shorn of the elaborate music and soft tones of the Elizabaethan sonneteer. Indeed, Donne’s style has been condemned for its harshness. The tone of his love poems is conversational, never ornamental but often colloquial. In this aspect Donne is an innovator—he introduced into lyrical verse those natural speech rhythms which require sentences and even paragraphs for their completion. The beginning of most of his poems are marked by this colloquial and dramatic tone. The utterance, movement, and intonation are those of the talking voice. His poetry is the poetry of talk, vigorous and direct
Indeed, Donne is a rebel against conventional love poetry which had been the forte of the Elizabethans following the Petrarchan tradition. Intensity of passion and truth of emotion mark his love poems, when he is not being cynical and contemptuous. Against the abstract idealism and sharp dualism between body and soul of the Middle Ages, he offers the justification of love as a natural passion in the human heart. His poetry is an escape from the courtly love of the Elizabethans in that it does justice to love as a passion in which body and soul alike have their pan, and of which there is no reason to repent He never repents having loved, even though he may repent the faithlessness of mistresses.

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Mahmood Saleem said...

Wow its really informative and awesome and great also thanks a lot to share with this knowledge with people

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