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John Donne's Unusual Conceits: Bizarre Imagery Or Thoughtful Comparisons?

952 words - 4 pages

What exactly do a flea and the intense emotion of love have in common? Does the sun ever intrude upon you and your lover while in bed? To most people these questions would draw nothing but quizzical or blank stares followed by perhaps a referral to one psychologist or another. However, if one asked a certain young minister from seventeenth century London the same questions, he would have suddenly become inspired. This exceptional personality was the metaphysical poet John Donne.
Many people debate whether Donne's metaphysical style of verse is genuinely contemplative comparison or merely eccentric imagery. However, if one looks deep enough into the witty his witty works such as, "The ...view middle of the document...

When the speaker asserts to the sun, "If her eyes have not blinded thine; Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, Whether both the Indias of spice and mine Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me," (Line 15-18), he is masterfully showing both his loves' superiority and the sun's inferiority. Interestingly, Donne actually uses a popular misconception of the time, namely that the sun revolved around the Earth. Although his science may have been wrong, the technique of incorporating it into his poetry was novel.
If we wanted to argue that John Donne's prose were actually indeed shocking imagery, then we would use his poem, "The Flea" as the main piece of evidence. During the seventeenth century one popular belief was that during sexual intercourse, the blood of two people actually mixed. This inspires Donne in the poem. He compares love to this flea, and argues to his loved one; "It sucked me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea, our two bloods mingled be" (Lines 3-4). He goes on to say, "This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is" (Lines 12-13). Here he is pleading that since this ugly little flea has stolen a drop of blood from both their bodies and joined them involuntarily, now they have become married in a sense.
However, his plans for seduction are suddenly thwarted when his listener "purpled" her nail by squashing the insect. Then comes Donne's absolute final appeal. He cunningly declares to his love, "Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee" (Lines 26-27). In this last desperate attempt to sweep her off her feet, Donne in essence offers as his last point of...

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