Woman in John Donne's poetry

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      John Donne's Songs and Sonnets are mainly concerned with the relationship between man and woman. Love in all its variety forms the theme of several of his poems. Donne revolted against the Petrarchan tradition in love poetry by bringing realism into the treatment of love. Thus in many of his poems, woman is not regarded as a goddess pure and exalted and adorable. She is essentially a human being very much desirable but not an object of worship.

There are some occasional verses, such as those addressed to Elizabeth Drury and Lady Bedford, which are almost in the Petrarchan tradition. In these poems, the tone is certainly what may pass for being called "adorable. On the whole, however, we cannot call the tone in Donne's poems as adoring towards the woman. A poet who finds women adorable would not be able to declare:  Then shall my ghost come to thy bed..
Woman in Poetry

      There are some occasional verses, such as those addressed to Elizabeth Drury and Lady Bedford, which are almost in the Petrarchan tradition. In these poems, the tone is certainly what may pass for being called "adorable. On the whole, however, we cannot call the tone in Donne's poems as adoring towards the woman. A poet who finds women adorable would not be able to declare:

Then shall my ghost come to thy bed..

      In several of his poems Donne's attitude towards woman is cynical and frivolous - which is far from being adoring. In the song, 'Go and catch a falling star, he speaks of the difficulty of finding a faithful woman in this world. He is well-versed in the ways of women. He desires them and would try all kinds of arguments to make them yield to him, as in The Flea. He finds women atractive and highly desirable. He appreciates her physical attributes in voluptuous terms in the Elegy: On His Mistress Going to Bed. He is realistic in his love poems, fully conscious of the basis of true love being in physical relationship as well as spiritual. He does not fight shy of expressing the delight of fully realised passion. In The Good Morrow, he begins by wondering what he and his beloved did till they loved'. In this poem, as in The Sun Rising, The Canonization or The Ecstasy, the attitude towards woman is not cynical. Here there is the fulfilment of mutual passion, but the woman is still not adorable but desirable, one of the 'hemispheres' in the world of love, The attitude towards woman in A Valediction Forbidding Mourning is one of gentle affection, bat not worshipping.

      Donne's attitude towards woman is, indeed, not one of adoring worship. In his earlier poems which are cynical and light-hearted, he views woman solely as an object of physical desire. In his later love poems, his attitude is mature; he sees woman as a companion in the fulfilment of passion, desirable not as an object of lust but as an object of love, both physical and spiritual.

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