Choose two or three poems that you think exemplify the characteristics of Donne's poetry.

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Choose two or three poems that you think exemplify the characteristics of Donne's poetry

Donne's poetry is varied including, as it does, both religious and secular poems. However, much of his poetry is characterised by elaborate conceits, surprising symbols and persistent wittiness making use of paradox, puns and startling parallels.

Donne's love poetry notably 'The Good-Morrow' and 'The Sun Rising' both succeed in exemplifying characteristics peculiar to Donne's poetry. In 'The Good-Morrow' Donne begins to wrestle with a question, which other lovers have faced. He is sure that the love he feels is different from any he has previously known, but lovers often feel that, and the fact remains that they have each loved others before. ‘What thou and I Did, till we lov’d?’ Donne ponders over the significance of this for the relationship they are about to begin. If they have loved, and left others in the past, what security can they have for the future?

Although 'Good-Morrow' and 'Sun Rising' are secular poems they can be seen to share certain characteristics with the holy sonnet 'Batter my Heart'. To each of these poems Donne brings the full force of his passion and intelligence. None of the poems can be regarded as a simple cry from the heart: they neither are, nor pretend to be, raw expressions of emotion. All of the three poems are about Donne's relationship with others, both lovers and God. They all contain complicated metaphors reflecting the complex nature of these relationships.


Love, for Donne does not exist isolated from other emotions and activities, as it does in the work of some other poets, but alongside and mingled with them. Consequently, in his poetry love appears under many guises from the assurance of 'The Sun Rising' to the sense of discovery in 'The Good-morrow'.  'The Sun Rising' celebrates the pleasures of a satisfied love in extravagant terms. The woman is 'all States' and he, her lover, is accordingly 'all Princes' while the sun which wakes them is paltry in comparison. In 'The Good-morrow' Donne suggests that here at last is a love that will survive even in a world dominated by change. However the idea of the self-sufficiency of the lovers is part of the argument of both these poems, as they set out to defy time. In 'The Sun Rising' the claim for the lovers' supremacy over the temporal world is accompanied by an acute sense of their vulnerability in a world dominated by time. These conflicting emotions are felt in a number of Donne's poems notably 'The Anniversary' where the lovers' convictions that 'Here upon earth, we're kings' cannot obscure that 'Two graves must hide thine and my corse'. Likewise the bravado of 'The Sun Rising' cannot disguise the fact that the sun will rise and set regardless of the lover's boasts.

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'The Sun Rising' exemplifies many characteristics of Donne's poetry, particularly his love poetry as his Jack Donne persona is typically light hearted and witty. Donne immediately reverses expectations of what the poem will be about as he begins the poem with a characteristically vibrant first line that dismisses the sun outright. 'Busy old fool, unruly sun'. Donne is both condescending and supercilious when readers might instead expect him to be awed by the Sun's great power. In poetry, personification of the sun is not uncommon but Donne’s is particularly unusual as the sun’s personification takes the form of a ...

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