• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

John Donne 'Songs and Sonnets' - Secular or Sacred?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Word Count: 2,574 Essay 2: Seventeenth Century John Donne 'Songs and Sonnets' - Secular or Sacred? John Carey states in his book, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, that: "The first thing to remember about Donne is that he was a Catholic; the second, that he betrayed his Faith". 1 Carey's argument continues with heavy emphasis on Donne's religious tendencies and implies that the perpetual worry about fidelity, falseness and the permanence of human relationships contained in the 'Songs and Sonnets' is a transference of Donne's apostatical guilt to women. However, Barbara Hardy in her essay 'Thinking and Feeling in the Songs and Sonnets' contradicts Carey's emphasis on the spiritual and religious, stating that: "Physicality...is the rule in Donne"2 These two critical views oppose each other and take extreme standpoints on the meaning and content of Donne's poetry. However, the common theme in Donne criticism is that there is a strong element of paradox and an overriding impression of ambiguity in his poems, and I believe that this prevents a definitive conclusion that the 'Songs and Sonnets' are, in a mutually exclusive sense, either secular or sacred. Donne's 'Songs and Sonnets' are complex. His use of philosophical, theological and scientific illustrations and analogies, captured in a colloquial language "such as men do use"3 make it extremely difficult to tease out the hidden depths of the poems, and can confuse the issue of whether they are secular or scared in nature. ...read more.

Middle

They challenge the sun to search for anything which can compare to, in the context of their self-contained world, the "rich experience"11 of human love and spirit, and the "preciousness of the human soul besides which all else pales into insignificance"12. In this way, their love is everything, it can transcend to become supreme and heavenly - a sacred love. 'The Canonization' is another example of Donne proclaiming that he and his lover are completely self-contained and have no need of anyone or anything else, only in this poem, he states this by protesting that they have no effect on the outside world: "Alas, alas, who's injur'd by my love?... ...Call us what you will, wee are made such by love"13 (lns 10 & 19) The conflict in this poem is much more prominent than in 'The Sunne Rising', which leans more towards earthly love as he is "boldly conflating the secular and the sacred"14 - the "boldly" probably referring to the opening exclamation, and the colloquial language he uses throughout: "For Godsake hold your tongue, and let me love,"15 (ln 1) This dialectal tone contributes to the appearance of the poem as being of a secular nature, and Donne's frequent reference to the sexual act and employment of sexual connotations and imagery certainly provide evidence for it having the aforementioned "physicality" as a rule. In the second stanza, he refers to himself and his lover as flies, a common example of unbridled sexuality, and continues this theme with a metaphor of them as tapers, which, whilst conjuring images of self-consumation, have phallic connotations. ...read more.

Conclusion

In particular, his marriage to Ann More favours a secular reading, and his apostasy a sacred. However, even when he was at his most sceptical, satirical and deeply involved with the secularised senses, he was overwhelmingly preoccupied by a search for religious truth. This balanced view that the poems can be both secular and sacred at the same time is the only conclusion that I believe can be drawn. It is a paradox in itself, but maybe that's just what Donne would have wanted. 1 Carey 1990, 1 2 Smith 1972, 79 3 Leishman, 22 4 Grierson 1963, 9 5 Leishman, 147 6 Donne 1991, 54 7 Donne 1991, 53 8 Donne 1991, 54 9 This quotation and all factual and background information for this point taken from: Roston 1974, 14 10 Roston 1974, 16 11 Roston 1974, 17 12 Roston 1974, 17 13 Donne 1991, 57 & 58 14 Donne 1991, 57 15 Donne 1991, 57 16 Donne 1991, 58 17 Donne 1991, 58 18 Donne 1991, 59 19 I make this point from the evidence provided by an extract of one of Donne's letters, ""I see not how I can admit that circuit of sending them" (ie. letters) "to you to be sent hither; that seems a kinde of praying to Saints, to whom God must tell first, that such a man prays to them to pray to him"". This can be found in: Grierson 1963, 16 20 Donne 1991, 51 21 Donne 1991, 51 22 Donne 1991, 51 23 Carey 1990, 158 24 Smith 1972, 127 25 Smith 1972, 90 Alison Richards 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Donne section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Donne essays

  1. Explore the theme of 'love' within the poems written by John Donne. Examine ...

    the effects of the Sun, and many religions (both ancient and modern) are based on the fact that the Sun is a holy being, and yet 'The Sun Rising' uses it to argue that nothing, even the basic elements and functions of life, can interfere with the love they have for each other.

  2. A critical analysis of the message by John Donne

    Consequently, this shows much tension of feelings on the speaker's behalf. Donne plays with words in order to change the form and flow of the poem. In L4 he abbreviates 'forc'd' in order to maximise the syllables within the line to four.

  1. Love in the Poetry of John Donne.

    When one of the couple leaves for a while and the other stays at home, the static one leans towards the one which travels and also makes it go in a surrounding circle which causes it to end where it began.

  2. "The Good Morrow" a poem by John Donne.

    The imagery in line 19 depicts the equal mixture of their two souls forming a new unity. This corresponds to how four elements, earth, air, fire, and water were designed to form a new substance. Two souls balancing depend on love and stability; the elemental creation of their being and

  1. Compare the poems by Shakespeare and Donne. Show how, though written in the same ...

    The use of repetition of the words 'So long' and 'this' are used to add emphasis of the length of time this man is going to be remembered. There is also an internal rhyme scheme used to create a rhythm and also make the poem more memorable.

  2. Take three themes related to the use of counselling skills and describe their importance ...

    I was acting solely as an observer at this point and only after the conversation had ended, was my opinions and observations requested. During my observations of the conversation between Client and Counsellor, I concluded that whilst the session progressed, at all times I felt comfortable that the client had

  1. Discuss the significance of the term metaphysical poetry in relation to three of the ...

    In the text, rhythm and tone the fear is not apparent. One has to investigate his motives for writing a poem like 'Holy Sonnet X'. John Donne personifies death by calling it 'thee', thou' and 'thy'. Why does he have the need to personify a concept?

  2. With reference to two or three of Donne's Holy Sonnets, consider the similarities between ...

    In these poems a fourteen-line scheme along with ten-line per verse scheme, use of iambic pentameter and petrarchan structure is apparent, illustrating Donne's use of technical expertise. This technical attention to detail creates an underlying tension in the poems, an uncertainty that perfectly accentuates the informality, passion and unorthodox methods found in the text itself.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work