Funny comments on John Donne




What is metaphysical poetry?


The term "metaphysical poetry" is used to describe a certain type of 17th century poetry.

The term was originally intended to be derogatory; Dryden, who said Donne "affects the metaphysics," was criticizing Donne for being too arcane. 

Samuel Johnson later used the term "metaphysical poetry" to describe the specific poetic method used by poets like Donne.

Metaphysical poets are generally in rebellion against the highly conventional imagery of the Elizabethan lyric.  The poems tend to be intellectually complex, and express honestly and unconventionally, the poet's sense of the complexities and contradictions of life.

 The result is that these poems often use a rough irregular movement that seems to suit the content of the poems.

In addition to challenging the conventions of rhythm, the metaphysical poets also challenged conventional imagery.  Their tool for doing this was the metaphysical conceit.

A conceit is a poetic idea, usually a metaphor.  There can be conventional ideas, where there are expected metaphors: Petrarchan conceits imitate the metaphors used by the Italian poet Petrarch.

Metaphysical conceits are noteworthy specifically for their lack of conventionality. In general, the metaphysical conceit will use some sort of shocking or unusual comparison as the basis for the metaphor.  When it works, a metaphysical conceit has a startling appropriateness that makes us look at something in an entirely new way.
The classic metaphysical conceit is Donne's comparison of the union between two lovers to the two legs of a compass in "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning." In Holy Sonnet 14, there are other surprising metaphors--comparing God to a violent invader and a rapist, for instance. 












No man is an Iland,

intire of it selfe;

every man is a peece of the Continent,

a part of the maine;

if a Clod

bee washed away by the Sea,

Europe is the lesse,

as well as if a Promontorie were,

as well as if

a Mannor of thy friends

or of thine own were;

any mans death diminishes me,

because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee."

—from "Meditation XVII" of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions


Nessun uomo è un'isola,

completo in se stesso;

ogni uomo è un pezzo del continente,

una parte del tutto.

Se anche solo una zolla

venisse lavata via dal mare,

l'Europa ne sarebbe diminuita,

come se le mancasse un promontorio,

come se venisse a mancare

una dimora di amici tuoi,

o la tua stessa casa.

La morte di qualsiasi uomo mi sminuisce,

perché io sono parte dell'umanità.

E dunque non chiedere mai

per chi suona la campana:

suona per te.


The dream


DEAR love, for nothing less than thee
Would I have broke this happy dream ;
It was a theme For reason,

much too strong for fantasy.
Therefore thou waked'st me wisely ; yet
My dream thou brokest not, but continued'st it.
Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice
To make dreams truths, and fables histories ;
Enter these arms, for since thou thought'st it best,
Not to dream all my dream, let's act the rest.

As lightning, or a taper's light,
Thine eyes, and not thy noise waked me ;
Yet I thought thee—For thou lovest truth—
an angel, at first sight ;
But when I saw thou saw'st my heart,
And knew'st my thoughts beyond an angel's art,
When thou knew'st what I dreamt, when thou knew'st when Excess of joy would wake me,
and camest then, I must confess,
it could not choose but be Profane,
to think thee any thing but thee.

Coming and staying show'd thee, thee,
But rising makes me doubt, that now
 Thou art not thou.
That love is weak where fear's as strong as he ;
'Tis not all spirit, pure and brave,
If mixture it of fear, shame, honour have ;
Perchance as torches, which must ready be,
Men light and put out, so thou deal'st with me ;
Thou camest to kindle, go'st to come ; then I
Will dream that hope again,
but else would die.


Il sogno

Per nessun altro, amore,
avrei spezzato questo beato sogno.

Buon tema per la ragione,
troppo forte per la fantasia.
Sei stata saggia a svegliarmi. E tuttavia
tu non spezzi il mio sogno, lo prolunghi.
Tu così vera che pensarti basta
per fare veri i sogni e storia le favole
Entra tra queste braccia. Se ti sembrò più giusto per me
non sognare tutto il sogno, ora viviamo il resto.

Come un lampo o un bagliore di candela
i tuoi occhi, non già il rumore, mi destarono.
Così (poichè tu ami il vero)
io ti credetti sulle prime un angelo.
Ma quando vidi che mi vedevi in cuore,
che conoscevi i miei pensieri meglio di un angelo,
quando interpretasti il sogno, sapendo
che la troppa gioia mi avrebbe destato
e venesti, devo confessare
che sarebbe stato sacrilegio

crederti altro da te.

Il venire, il restare ti rivelò: tu sola.
Ma ora che ti allontani dubito

che tu non sia più tu.
Debole quell'amore di cui più forte è la paura,
e non è tutto spirito limpido e valoroso
se è misto di timore, di pudore, di onore.
Forse, come le torce
sono prima accese e poi spente, così tu fai con me.
Venisti per accendermi, vai per venire. E io
sognerò nuovamente quella speranza,
ma per non morire.







(pun = parola a doppio senso, gioco di parole)


Originally Posted by Oracle

I have enjoyed a play on words many times in poems , I know Donne uses puns alot though I cannot seam to find alot of them apart from "The Sun Rising" , will anyone lend me a hand?



One poem in which Donne uses puns is 'A Hymn to God the Father', below. This should be read bearing in mind that the poet's name is John Donne (Done) and his wife's name is Anne More.

A Hymn to God the Father - John Donne

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.




Beautiful. I don't remember ever reading this one. It's made my evening.