Since She Whom I Loved : by John Donne || Analysis

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Since She Whom I Loved

Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt
To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,
And her soul early into heaven ravished,
Wholly in heavenly things my mind is set.
Here the admiring her my mind did whet
To seek thee God, so streams do show the head,
But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,
A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.

But why should I beg more love, when as thou
Dost woo my soul; for hers offering all thine:
And dost not only fear lest I allow
My love to saints and angels, things divine,
But in thy tender jealousy dost doubt
Lest the world, flesh, yea Devil put thee out.

Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead, And her soul early into heaven ravished, Wholly in heavenly things my mind is set. Here the admiring her my mind did whet To seek thee God, so streams do show the head, But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed, A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.
Since She Whom I Loved

Critical Analysis

      Since She Whom I Loved is included in the Holy Sonnets : Divine Meditations (17) and was written after the death of Donne's wife, Anne More, in 1617. The poet had taken holy orders under the Anglican Church two years earlier. There is a definite link between human love and divine love. Just as with many mystics, sensual love leads to spiritual love, in the same way Donne feels that his wife is a channel between him and God. Since her death, the poet has sought the love of God because she is with God. Though he is devoted to God, on his part woos his soul on behalf of his wife in Heaven. God feels jealous and is apprehensive that the poet may revert to the world, the flesh and the devil in absence of his beloved. God's solicitude for the poet on account of his beloved's separation is reciprocated by Donne through his increased faith in love of God. In fact, God, the poet and his wife all are woven on a single thread of spirituality.

Development of Thought:

      Donne feels keenly the sorrow of separation of his wife snatched by death. Of course everyone is mortal and has to pay the debt of nature. But with her death, everything that the poet loved as good and admired as virtue is dead. His life has become blank and meaningless without her. In fact, she has been taken away from him sooner than expected - she died at the age of 33, rather young - because God, like a lover, grabbed her and ravished her soul. The poet uses sensuous terminology even when he deals with holy or divine love. Now that his beloved has gone to heaven, the poet's mind is turned to heaven. He now thinks of her and God. When she was alive, he used to admire her. She was almost a goddess whom he offered his holy love, and through her, he knew God. Donne's mind proceeds from physical love to spiritual love. Just as a stream flows from its source to the ocean, in the same way his love of God flowed from his wife. Now that he loves God, his spiritual thirst has grown and cannot be quenched. Like a patient suffering from dropsy, he feels endless thirst. Donne's feeling for divine love keeps growing and can never be satiated.

God A Jealous Lover:

      Knowing that the poet has lost his beloved, God offers all his love to the poet. God woos him like a jealous lover. God cannot brook the idea that the poet should offer his love to saints and angels, though they are also holy beings. God is also jealous of the poet transferring his love, through despair and loneliness to things of the flesh - the enjoyments of life and the temptations of the Devil. God is much concerned about the future of the poet, now that he is lonely and helpless. Perhaps he may seek some relaxation or comfort in the evil things of the world. Thus God's love for the poet is great and sincere like the poet's love for his beloved and after her death, his love for God. The poet's love for God has increased because his beloved now lives with Him. The poet's mind is turned to the things of heaven, because his beloved now dwells in heaven with God.

Critical Remarks:

      One of the things remarkable about the poem is the use of sensual imagery for describing holy love. The death of the beloved brings to the mind of the poet her being ravished in heaven. His appetite (love) too her increases his appetite for God. There is a beautiful simile of the stream flowing from its source in the mountains. The source of the poet's love of God is his love of his beloved. His thirst for God keeps on growing like that of a patient suffering from dropsy. The poet can never have enough of God's love. The image of God as lover wooing the soul of the poet both from the saints and the Devil comes as a grand finale to the poem. The jealousy of God is not the ordinary jealousy but 'tender' because it is due to love. This sonnet is remarkable for the close bond between secular and spiritual love.

Paraphrase:

      Line. 1-8 : (The sonnet refers to the death of the poet's first wife Anne More in 1617. His love for his wife is linked up with his love of God). Since she (my wife) whom I loved has died and paid her debt to Nature (with her life) everything good and valuable in me is dead. God like a lover has ravished (claimed) her soul. Because she has gone to heaven, my mind is turned to heavenly things. Even while she lived, I used to admire her with a holy passion. My love flowed from my wife to God just as the stream-water flows from the mountains to the ocean. Though I have found God and satisfied my thirst for divine love, still like a patient suffering from dropsy - one having excess of water still wanting more - I continue to suffer from great thirst. (The poet wants more and more of divine love)

      Line. 9-14 : Why should I beg more love from God when He loves my soul intensely for the sake of Anne whom I love ? God is a jealous lover he cannot stand the love of saints, angels and other heavenly beings on my part. He, in His jealousy resulting from love, is afraid lest be tempted by the pleasures of the world, the joys of the senses and the Devil and thereby remove Him from my heart.

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