Sunday, May 13, 2012

Discuss John Donne's religious poetry

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Donne’s overall work consisted largely of Love Poetry such as The Sunne Rising and Religious Poetry such as Good Friday 161. Riding Westward. These two poems also consist of various techniques that are also utilised in other works of Donne. Through these recurring techniques and constant themes of love and religiousness seen in Donne’s body of work, we see how the poems The Sunne Rising and Good Friday 161. Riding Westward are representative of Donnes overall.


Personal tone is used in Donnes love poetry, which enhances the dramatic quality of Donnes poetry and allows Donne to speak directly to the audience. It is seen in the Sunne Rising throughout the poem where there is a dominant sense of the poet “I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink.” The personal tone is also utilised in another of Donnes romantic poems, Loves Alchymie, where authority is gained though the use of ‘I’ “I have lov’d…”


In Valediction Forbidding Mourning, Donne compares natural phenomena to a love relationship, the “sigh tempests” relating to the element of air, and the “tear floods” to the element of water. He uses this hyperbole to demand that his lover remain stoic and resist any show of emotion upon his departure. Similarly in Sunne “I could eclipse and cloud them” juxtaposed with “with a winke” adds to the conceit in this poem.


Alliteration is employed in The Sunne Rising through the line “Thou Sunne art halfe as happy ‘as wee”. This is done to give the statement a snide tone, which could almost be seen as mocking. Alliteration such as “bracelet of bright hair” is used to a different effect in the poem The Relique, where it helps to maintain the visual impact of the imaginery scene being described.


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As in Donnes love poetry, personal tone is also used in his religious poetry. In Good Friday 161. Riding Westward the personal tone is put into use to add authority to the piece and “…where I begunne.” Personal tone is largely evident in another of Donnes religious poems, A Hymne to God the Father, where the poem is concluded with the line ‘I have no more.”


Metaphor is another technique used in Donnes religious and overall work. Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness the controlling metaphor for the poem � the human body as a map � and the physicians have therefore become map-readers. In Good Friday the metaphorical connection comes from the stressing between the physical and spiritual which links God’s death to the setting sun. In this sense the crucifixion becomes the microcosm of the world.


In Donnes Holy Sonnet XIV the relationship between the image and the subject is of great importance, Donne exploits the technique of paradox in order to successfully show the great importance “Except you enthral me, never shall I be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.” The paradoxical notion that God who is ‘selfe life, must dye’ is explored through emotive imagery in Good Friday, which highlights that witnessing such a death made ‘his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke”.





In the 150s, at the time when John Donne produced his Songs and Sonnets, the Petrarchan tradition had already had several centuries of undeniable rule over amorous poetry and literature in general. Donne probably thought this rule should come to an end, for his sonnets rudely, and even cynically changed the concepts concerning love and women. His love poetry is best valued when compared to the very strong at the time Petrarchan concept. The most scandalous of his ideas is probably how he viewed women.


All in all, John Donne managed to step aside from a centuries old tradition in literature that went on even throughout his lifetime. Namely his audacity to violate the conventions, to try something new made a very special place for his works in the English renaissance. Not only that; to a great extent he foretold the upcoming women’s struggle against sexism and more of less set the ground for breaking the rules of the Petrarchan tradition.








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