Metaphysical Poetry in The Seventeenth Century Essay

Metaphysical Poetry in The Seventeenth Century Essay

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Metaphysical wit and conceit are two of the most famous literary devices used in the seventeenth century by poets such as John Donne. Emerging out of the Petrarchan era, metaphysical poetry brought a whole new way of expression and imagery dealing with emotional, physical and spiritual issues of that time. In this essay I will critically analyse the poem, The Flea written by John Donne in which he makes light of his sexual intentions with his lover.

In the first stanza of the poem, Donne tries to convince his lover to have sexual intercourse with him. At first one would not realize that this is his intention because he uses a flea to describe sex which is a very far-fetched description of the act hence this poem being metaphysical. Using a conceit he belittles the impact of sex and the power it has over him even though it may be untrue. Knowing that she has thought about it before, he assures her that by withholding sex from him is something so small that it does not give her power in the relationship.

‘Mark but this flea, and mark in this
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,’
(Lines 1 – 3)

He encourages her to give in to his demand by making the act seem trivial, insignificant and nothing to be ashamed of. He implies that if their blood can be shared by a flea, why not they share it with each other. A sense of humour is evident as he ridicules the mindsets of sex before marriage being a sin.

‘And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead’
(Lines 5 - 7)

He then goes on to persuade her into considering it by describing the passion that they would encounter. He aims to arouse her sexu...


... middle of paper ...


... be intimate with his lover.

‘Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
‘Tis true; then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.’
(Lines 23 – 27)

Donne’s approach to the topic plays an important role in the result in which the poem ended. Instead of being utterly romantic and persuading his lover in a kind and tender way, he is straightforward and not afraid to ask of her what he wants. To a certain extent the metaphor of a flea can be deemed as logical in the sense that if a flea bit them both their blood would have already been shared. In this poem Donne breaks the barriers of Petrarchan poetry when using metaphysical wit and conceit to portray his feelings making metaphysical poetry much more interesting and challenging.

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