Elegy XX - To His Mistress Going to Bed by John Donne
In the poem, 'To His Mistress Going to Bed,' John Donne, in the form of first person dialogue, uses various themes and extended metaphors to illustrate the seductive, witty events occurring between the speaker and his mistress. The metaphysical nature of the themes and imagery introduces a lot of complex ideas, parallelism, and concentrated language within the poem. Such themes are revolved around the events of the poem. The mistress is 'willingly' stripping nude for the speaker and is doing so in a submissive yet seductive manner, which is powered by a single force of sexual desire. The structure follows a chronological set of events. Each of these events holds a unique image which is linked with the other poem's images through some fundamental themes. Such themes include eroticism, excitement, adventure and pureness, which is illustrated through the many kinds of images used.
The poem begins with a seemingly rather colloquial and arrogant tone from the speaker, saying to the woman, "Come, all rest my powers defy; until I labour, I in labour lie." Firstly the exclamation to the woman creates more demand for attention which compels the reader to continue. For the lines, they not only suggest that the woman is a prostitute with authoritative and colloquial language but it introduces the speaker's impatient sexual desires, comparing his impatience to a woman in labour. The idea of sexual impatience is developed further in the militaristic imagery introduced in the following lines: "The foe... is tired with standing, though he never fight." This of course is an erotic reference to the sexual organs that is 'tired' of standing though it is not fighting or rather being 'used,' in its sexual sense. Militaristic imagery continues when describing her "spangled breast plate... that th'eyes of busy fools may be stopp'd there." Her breast plate refers to her armor which supposedly protects her breasts and so, stops the eyes of other men any further than that. However, of course, it is being referred to as that after he instructs her to 'unpin' it for him. The speaker then sets himself about all other men, with this exclusive access. The militaristic imagery is a metaphor for the rough nature of some sexual acts but also adds to the eroticism of the poem entirely. This is because in induces the idea of excitement and adrenaline. The idea of battles is also very provocative which can be ill-intended but also provocative in a sexual manner.