The Triple Fool : poem by John Donne || Analysis

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The Triple Fool

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry;
But where's that wiseman, that would not be I,
If she would not deny ?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For, he ames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain,
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'ths read,
Both are increased by such songs;
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three;
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

I am two fools, I know, For loving, and for saying so In whining poetry; But where's that wiseman, that would not be I, If she would not deny ? Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes Do purge sea water's fretful salt away, I thought, if I could draw my pains Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay. Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce, For, he ames it, that fetters it in verse.
The Triple Fool

Critical Analysis

      This is a strange love-poem where Donne calls himself a Triple Fool. Firstly, he is a fool because he loves, secondly because he communicates his love through poetry, thirdly because when his poetry is sung, it reawakens the pain of love which had been dulled when he wrote his poems. Undoubtedly, even a wise man becomes a fool in love. Love is blind and it turns the lover's wits inside out. What the poet thought as a remedy for reducing the pain of love has in fact turned out to be worse than the disease. His poetry has increased his passion when it has been sung to him. He wishes he had never composed his poems of love because they revive memories and pains whenever they are sung.

Development of Thought:

      Love has been a subject of poetry from time immemorial. The poet unbosoms his heart and expresses the pangs of love. When grief finds an outlet in poetry, the poet feels relieved of the pain and tension of love. His heart becomes less tense and excited. His love poetry has interest for many lovers because they find their feelings and situations echoed therein. Moreover, if the beloved is willing to respond to love, which lover will not go the whole hog. Even so the joy of love mitigates to some extent the tension and grief of love. In fact, grief and love go together, and poetry is a tribute to the multiple effects of love.

Revival of Pain:

      The intensity of the grief of love is reduced by the outlet of poetry. The poet unburdens his heart and finds some relief and peace. However there are musicians and singers who set his poems to music for the delight of lovers. Other people get any amount of joy by listening to this kind of love. However, onc man's meat is another man's poison. When the poet listens to the music of his own poems, his wounds of love are opened again and he finds himself in greater excitement and pain. The music intensifies his pain and he, therefore, feels that he is 'three fools' when he listens to this kind of love music. The poet thought that such music would be a source of joy and delight to all; it only shows that wise men are also foolish. The poet is frank enough to confess his own folly.

Critical Remarks:

      This is a poem of two stanzas eleven lines each. The rhyme scheme is regular. Donne is fond of experimentation in verse. The simile of the draining of the sea-water in creaks and lakes to reduce the joltiness of the sea, is quite appropriate. Grief conveyed in verse loses its fury and sting. However, when his poems are sung, the poet feels the pangs of love more intensely. The last line of the poem is, indeed, a sort of generalization - that the wisest man is likely to prove himself a great fool. The poet who thought that love music would allay his grief, fond to his cost, the havoc it wrought in his heart. The poet proves at the end that he is a 'triple fool' and is content with the title. A. J. Smith writes in this connection "The Triple Fool turns on the poet's detached attitude to himself, his ironic recognition of his own manifold foolishness, and it gets much of its bite from is belittlement of his own poetic pretensions"

Paraphrase:

      Stanza 1 : I am a double fool, firstly, I am a fool for making love, secondly, I am a fool for expressing my love in my poems. Even this self-knowledge will not make me a wise man and thereby prevent me from making love or writing love-poetry. Who is wise enough to keep away from love when the beloved is agreeable and willing ? Thus when I loved my lady and desired to relieve myself of the pain of love through poetry - just as the sea-water's salfishness is reduced to some extent by collecting and drying its water in small ponds and lakes and collecting clots of salt - I feel that its pain could be reduced in its inten sity (if not eliminated) by expressing it in my poems.

      Stanza 2 : After I have written such love poems, some composer may set verses to music and by singing my pains delight many lovers. How ever, when I listen to this music the pain of love returns again which have fetched in my poem. Undoubtedly love and its grief deserve the homage of poetry. The grief of love is moderated when the poem is composed and read, but it is increased when it is sung and listened to by the poet. In this way, the pains of love are revived and published In this way, I who was a double fool now become a triple-fool - (1) for loving, (ii) for expressing love through poetry, (iii) for enabling a composer to set the verse to music and by singing it to re-awaken the passion which poetical composition had lulled to sleep'. Anyway three fools are better than two-wise men are the most foolish of all.

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