Love's Growth : by John Donne || Analysis

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Love's Growth

I scarce believe my love to be so pure
As I had thought it was,
Because it doth endure
Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore,
My love was infinite, if spring make it more.
But if this medicine, love, which cures all sorrow
With more, not only be no quintessence,
But mixed of all stuffs, paining soul, or sense,
And of the sun his working vigour borrow,
Love's not so pure, and abstract, as they use
To say, which have no mistress but their Muse,
But as all else, being elemented too,
Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.

And yet not greater, but more eminent,
Love by the spring is grown ;
As, in the firmament,
Stars by the sun are not enlarged, but shown,
Gentle love deeds, as blossoms on a bough,
From love's awakened root do bud out now.
If, as in water stirred more circles be
Produced by one, love such additions take,
Those like so many spheres, but one heaven make,
For, they are all concentric unto thee,
And though each spring do add to love new heat,
As princes do in times of action get
New taxes, and remit them not in peace,
No winter shall abate the spring's increase.

I scarce believe my love to be so pure As I had thought it was, Because it doth endure Vicissitude, and season, as the grass; Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore, My love was infinite, if spring make it more. But if this medicine, love, which cures all sorrow With more, not only be no quintessence, But mixed of all stuffs, paining soul, or sense, And of the sun his working vigour borrow, Love's not so pure, and abstract, as they use To say, which have no mistress but their Muse, But as all else, being elemented too, Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.
Love's Growth

Critical Analysis

       This is one of the characteristic love poems of John Donne. Here in the poem Love's Growth Donne examines the true nature of love. Is it pure? Is it mixed? Does it grow? Is it deep and unchanging from the very beginning? Is love physical? Is love divine? The poet analyses the various aspects and ingredients of love. He comes to the conclusion that love is dynamic, not static. It does not grow luxuriantly like the grass. But its circumference widens like the ripples of water. It becomes more eminent and conspicuous, rather greater. It may gain intensity as a result of mutual confidence and understanding. But this intensity of tempo cannot be measured by any yard-stick. Moreover, the expression of love through gentle love deeds is like the fruits of the love tree. Above all, the experience of love is unique. Only the lovers know its taste and relish.

Development of Thought:

      Is love pure? It is not pure in the sense that it does not consist of one single element. It is compound of various elements; it is both physical and spiritual. It depends both on the body and the mind, action and thought, holy passion and sex. It is like the grass which grows. It enlarges its dimensions and gains in strength. While the grass decays and dies in winter, love is not affected by the cold season. The grass grows luxuriantly in spring and so does love gather momentum in this season. The growth cannot be measured in terms of quantity. It is not a statistical increase. Its growth lies in the deepening of love experience. Just as according to medieval astronomers, stars shone with light borrowed from the sun, in the same way love made everything light like the sun. Spring adds zest and zeal to the lovers and pass on 'new heat' just as kings impose new taxes in war-time which they do not remit in peace-time. Love enriched by spring is not in any way affected by the onset of winter.

Love's Sorrow:

      Love causes hardships and sufferings. Love is the source of sorrow and yet the medicine of sorrow lies in love. This is the great paradox of love. Love causes jealousy and hostility. The lovers may lose the respect of their parents or their friends. But the joy of love removes all the sorrows-caused by antipathy and hostility. Strangely enough love is the cure of sorrow and yet on the principle 'like cures like' it causes greater sorrow to drown the lesser sorrow caused by the ailment. The onset of greater sorrow in love, implies also the cure of love. The poet makes contrast between the two theories of medical cure. The first theory is that similarity cures similarity while the second theory is that the quintessence which is a pure essence extracted from things and separated from their elements cures the disease on account of its pure substance.

Concentric Circles:

      Just according to Ptolemaic astronomy, the nine spheres revolving round the earth made one heaven and just as when water is stirred, additional ripples become wider and wider round the original circle, in the same way the poet's love revolves round the beloved - "concentric unto thee".

Critical Remarks:

      The tone of the poem is reflective. It contains the poet's philosophy or love. The poet's experiences of love have given him a practical and dynamic view of love namely that in spite of the seasonal fluctuations in the manifestations of love, love grows qualitatively and is not subject to decay and death. The poet uses many concrete images to bring the argument home. Love is a medicine and also like the stars and blossoms. It is like the revolving spheres and the concentric waves. Love's growth is taken as increase in taxes. The poet fuses all the elements to show his rich experience of love. The poem consists of twenty-eight lines in a definite rhyme, and pattern. There is alliteration in lines 9, 12, and 19. The poem belongs to the group of mature poems and reveals the poet's sense of realism and speculative ability.

Paraphrase:

      Stanza 1 : Earlier I had thought that my love was quite pure and changeless, but now I have realised that my love is not such. It is subject to change - and seasonal variations like the growing grass. When I declared that my love was endless in the winter season, I was wrong because my love has increased in the spring season and thus it has undergone a chang for better.

      Love is like a medicine on the principle of "like disease like cures". It cures the malady by giving the sufferer more of that malady. Love is not a pure essence with only healing powers, but is a compound containing different elements and experiences, and as such it adversely affects the body and the soul. Poetry is a jealous mistress and poets may have no one else to love but the beloved muse. Love is not as pure as poetry, and it is made up of different elements. It is both an activity of the mind and the activity of the body.

      Stanza 2 : However, with the advent of the spring season, my love has become more conspicuous and manifest, though not greater, just as the stars in the sky are not enlarged but made visible by the light of the sun. Just as blossoms appear out of the saplings in spring, gentle acts of love come out of the roots of love in the spring season.

      Just as when a stone is thrown into water, it produces lots of ripples which go on enlarging till they reach the edge, in the same way the joys of love keep on multiplying just as many stars and planets revolve round one heavenly body, so also all the joys of love revolve round you as the centre. Each spring adds a new zeal to my love just as kings during war-times levy new taxes. With the return of peace, kings do not remit the taxes which they imposed in war-time. In a similar manner, the joys of love which were enlarged in the spring season, will not be decreased in the winter season.

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