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The Love Poetry Of John Donne.

The Love Poetry of John Donne.


Ian Mackean

John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets do not describe a single unchanging view of love; they express a wide variety of emotions and attitudes, as if Donne himself were trying to define his experience of love through his poetry. Love can be an experience of the body, the soul, or both; it can be a religious experience, or merely a sexual one, and it can give rise to emotions ranging from ecstasy to despair.

Taking any one poem in isolation will give us a limited view of Donne’s attitude to love, but treating each poem as a fragment of a totality of experience, represented by all the Songs and Sonnets, it gives us an insight into the complex range of experiences that can be grouped under the single heading ‘Love’.

In To his Mistris Going to Bed we see how highly Donne can praise physical pleasure. He addresses the woman as:

Oh my America, my new found lande,

My kingdome, safeliest when with one man man’d,

My myne of precious stones, my Empiree

The images are of physical, material wealth, and anyone reading this poem alone would think Donne’s interest in women was limited to the sexual level. He describes sex in terms of a religious experience; the woman is an ‘Angel’, she provides ‘A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise’, and the bed is ‘loves hallow’d temple’. But this is not a love poem; nowhere does he say that he loves the woman, or that sex is part of a deeper relationship.

In The Extasie Donne conveys a very different and more complex attitude to physical pleasure, when it is just one part of the experience of love.

Love’s mysteries in soules doe grow,

But yet the body is his booke.

Here the body and the soul are distinct, but related aspects of the totality of love. The uniting of souls is the purest and highest form of love, but this can only be attained through the uniting of bodies.

Soe soule into the soule may flow,

Though it to body first repaire.

This focus on the soul leads Donne to express a condescending attitude towards physical love in this poem which is in marked contrast to the attitude he expressed in To his Mistris Going to Bed.

But O alas, so long, so farre

Our bodies why doe wee forbeare?

They’are ours, the though they’are not wee. Wee are

Th’intelligences, they the spheare.

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But in reading Donne one soon learns that an attitude expressed in one poem is not to be taken as absolute and exclusive. One of Donne’s characteristics is that he freely contradicts himself from one poem to another. The title of this poem, The Extasie, implies that love is a religious experience, just as the diction of To his Mistris Going to Bed conveyed sex as a religious experience. The religious metaphors give a hyperbolic intensity to his imagery, but the ideas expressed in The Extasie are firmly rooted in the scientific theories of his day.

Donne’s view that spiritual love can be attained through physical love ties in with the contemporary theory of the ‘chain of being’. Angels, presumably, could experience a totally spiritual love, unadulterated by the physical. But man, being part divine and part animal, can only reach the spiritual level through the sensual.

The inherent superiority of the spiritual level, and the part love can play in refining man’s nature towards the spiritual, is expressed in these lines:

If any, so by love refin’d,

That he soules language understood,

And by good love were grown all minde

The scientific framework of Donne’s view of love is seen here:

But as all severall soules containe

Mixture of things, they know not what,

Love, these mixt soules, doth mixe againe,

And makes both one, each this and that.

The idea of two coming together to form one is very important in Donne’s view of love. When a couple find perfect love together they become all-sufficient to one another, forming a world of their own, which has no need of the outside world. This idea is expressed in these lines from The Sunne Rising:

She’is all States, and all Princes, I,

Nothing else is.

Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;

This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy spheare.

Like love itself, the women to whom Donne’s verses are addressed are usually praised in hyperbolic terms. In The Sunne Rising her eyes shine brighter than the sun. And in The Dreame she is praised as a being above the level of angels.

Yet I thought thee

(For thou lov’st truth) an Angell, at first sight,

But when I saw thou saw’st my heart,

And knew’st my thoughts, beyond an Angels art

This reverence for woman sometimes leads Donne close to adopting the traditional attitude of the courtly lover, who suffers through being in love with a woman, usually already married, who scorns him. An example of this kind of love is suggested by the references to the symptoms of love in The Canonization:

Alas, alas, who’s injur’d by my love?

What merchant ships have my sighs drown’d?

Who saies my teares have overflow’d his ground?

The courtly love ideal, however, is in conflict with Donne’s ideal of two well-matched and well-balanced lovers whose souls unite to form one. In the poem Loves Deitie he expresses his contempt for the courtly ideal, which he sees as a corruption of the true nature of love.

I cannot thinke that hee, who then lov’d most,

Sunke so low, as to love one which did scorne,

. . . It cannot bee

Love, till I love her, that loves mee.

For Donne, love can lead to suffering and disillusionment as well as to ecstasy. A Nocturnall upon S. Lucie’s day, Being the shortest day is an extremely powerful evocation of the suffering caused by the death of a loved one, an experience which takes him beyond suffering to a state of absolute nothingness.

. . . Yea plants, yea stones detest

And love; All, all some properties invest;

If I an ordinary nothing were,

As shadow, ‘a light, and body must be here.

But I am none;

In Twicknam Garden Donne expresses extremes of disillusionment, his view of love here being totally opposed to his view in The Extasie:

The spider love, which transubstantiates all,

And can convert Manna to gall,

And his view of woman is totally opposed to the view expressed in most of his love poems:

Nor can you more judge womans thought by teares,

Than by her shadow, her what she weares.

O perverse sexe, where none is true but shee,

Who’s therefore true, because her truth kills mee.

Perhaps the most extreme anti-love poem of Donne’s, and certainly the most un-courtly, is The Apparition. The bitterness expressed here is so intense that it is surely a hate poem; it opens:

When by thy scorne, O murdress, I am dead,

And continues with the lover threatening to haunt his mistress after his death.

Finally we ought to consider whether Donne’s poetry expresses real love at all, or whether, as some critics suggest, he was merely a talented poet using his wit and ingenuity to create clever poems. Johnson said of the Metaphysical poets: ‘Their courtship was void of fondness and their lamentation of sorrow.’ He did not feel that Donne’s poetry moved the affections, or that Donne had necessarily felt the emotions in order to write the poems.

Donne’s poems are extraordinarily witty and ingenious, but this does not exclude the possibility that they also contain strong emotion. Donne’s poems are quite capable of stirring the emotions, and no matter how clever his conceits, or revolutionary his thought, his poems would not work without a seed of genuine feeling at their centre.

Ian Mackean runs

English Literature Resources & Essays

, (where his site on Short Story Writing can also be found), and

Books Made Into Movies

. He is editor of ‘The Essentials of Literature in English post-1914’. He is also a keen amateur photographer and has made a site of his photography at

Photo-zen photography

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The Love Poetry of John Donne.

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Building Opt In List Why You Should (Not) Buy Leads?

By Jaksa Dubljanin

Building Opt-In List is an essential part of Internet Marketing. Every successful marketer online has a personal list of subscribers and is using it to profit online. Building personal list may sound easy you just purchase an autoresponder service, create a few messages, place subscription form on your site and drive visitors to your subscription form.

Although these steps are very true and simple, unfortunately building list is not that easy. Someone inexperienced in web promotion will have difficulties in driving traffic necessary for building an opt-in list. Traffic can sometimes be a problem even for a more experienced people.

Getting enough traffic for list building is not the only problem. Many people overlook the importance of keeping constant contact with all members of your list. People tend to be forgetful and if you dont contact them often, they can easily forget that they even subscribed to your list!

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Therefore, to solve problem with traffic many people decide to simply buy leads. Buying leads can save a lot of time necessary for list building. They can also avoid the second problem by creating enough pre-written messages to keep up with their leads for a longer time, or they can use broadcast option often. The idea of buying leads is great and many marketers are using this method, but there is a catch.

Many people dont like the idea of their e-mail, or other contact info being sold. And once when they subscribed, there probably was a privacy statement saying that their contact information is safe and will never be rented, sold, or used for any purpose whatsoever. It is possible though that they were lied to, or tricked. Subscription forms without privacy statement have a lot lower conversion rates and very often these subscribers are not very responsive.

Other very important reason why leads shouldnt be bought is because you can never be really sure if you are purchasing a safelist. People willing to profit quickly can easily sell blacklists. They use spam robots to collect as many e-mails as they can online, but instead of sending spam, they decide to earn some money by selling those e-mails. This is even worse because marketer who purchased this list will be accused of spam! Although this probably wont happen since leads are not just e-mail addresses but also names and other contact info, it is possible!

A successful Internet marketer knows a true value of responsive leads and will not sell them. He has worked hard in building his list and creating a certain relationship with all members of that list. It isnt likely that he will risk his reputation and trust by selling a responsive list. It is more likely that you will get a non responsive list of leads.

On the other hand it is possible that these leads are fully aware of selling and that they agree with it. In that case buying leads is ok, but you never really know

If you are interested in buying leads, always use your due diligence whenever you come across some lead selling offer. Make sure you are buying opt-in leads (double opt-ins are even better) and that all of them are aware of a new list owner. If you are not sure of the latter, approach your new leads carefully and even consider asking them to confirm their subscription again. You can lose some leads this way, but its much better than to risk spam accusations.

About the Author: This article was written by Jaksa Dubljanin. Jaksa is a student of Medicine and a successful Internet Marketer. Visit his site Internet Traffic Secrets – the ultimate source of traffic information located at

For more information on how to build a list visit: You have full rights to republish this article on your site as long as the resource box remains intact


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