Thursday, 6 October 2016

Essay 1: Lover's Infiniteness

This essay is an analysis of the poem 'Lover's Infiniteness' by John Donne

In the poem ‘Lover’s Infiniteness’, John Donne employs the structure of this poem as a key tool to represent the transient nature of his thoughts towards the idea of love. The effect created makes the reader believe that Donne was torn between perspectives and was facing an inner conflict while penning down this poem. Each stanza of the poem has a different tone, and represents this very change in the Donne’s perspective while simultaneously exploring the idea of “love’s riddle”.

In the first stanza, Donne’s outlook is fairly defeatist. He feels if “yet I have not all thy love, I shall never have it all”. Donne’s idea of love comes across as childish, as one cannot really quantify love. Also, he seems to be too possessive. The language used here is fairly materialistic. This is attested to when he says “and all my treasure which should purchase thee”. Donne regards love as a black and white deal, which is not the case.  The metaphor of “treasure” however, could also signify how having his lover’s love is of extreme importance to Donne. Also Donne expresses how love is full of misery, “sighs, tears, oaths and letters”. He finds it so exhausting that he “cannot breather another sigh”. Love has worn him out both mentally and physically. This would explain why he is so defeatist. He wishes his relationship to conform to his rigid, idealistic idea of love. However, this gives rise to his frustration due to the unpredictable nature of love, which serves to oppose this very ideology.

His frustration and insecurities are manifested a lot more explicitly in the second stanza, where his jealousy and insecurity are heightened. This transition in the tone further reveals how Donne is reasoning with his thoughts as he writes. Donne worries about “new love created be, by other men” would steal his lover from him. He worries that they might “in sighs, in oaths, and letters, outbid” him. Here too, words such as “stocks” and “outbid” illuminate how Donne still thinks of love as a straightforward transaction. He is afraid of it becoming something that doesn’t align to his stipulations, disregarding how love is two-sided and can never be absolute. Donne seems to threaten his lover, claiming the love of other men was not “vow’d by thee”, almost as though he is reminding her of the   supposed clauses of this contract. His overtly possessive nature is made visible in the last two lines, “the ground, thy heart, is mine: whatever shall Grow there, dear, I should have it all. Donne employs imagery here, as though their relationship is like a joint ownership of land, and thus whatever grows there is theirs alone, and nobody can have a share in it. His bitterness morphs into a sense of authority and control, almost appearing misogynist in the quest of making love go his way.

In the third stanza, Donne seems to have mellowed down a bit. He is more accepting and positive. He accepts that “love’s riddles” indeed cannot be understood fully. The personification of love show how it is a conundrum, and how Donne too is trying to figure out how the concept works. In the final stanza Donne’s stance on the very same situation turns the other way round. He seems to be reasoning out and finding a positive manner to approach the situation, coming to the conclusion that he who “hath all can have no more”. He realizes that if he did actually “have it all”, there would be no “new rewards in store” for him and he would have no chance to impress his lover further. Donne acknowledges that love can find a “way more liberal” rather than imposing so many expectations and constrictions upon the emotion. He probably realizes at this point that his idea of love is not very realistic due to its unpredictable nature. Hence, attaching financial connotations to the idea only serves to exacerbate the poet’s misery, for the very idea of love serves to diametrically oppose the calculated nature of pecuniary and financial matters. Instead of seeing hearts as assets to be transacted, Donne concludes that it is best to “join them; so we shall Be one, and one another’s all”.

The primary purpose of this poem’s structure is to present the three facets to John Donne’s interpretations of love in three stanzas. The volatile and ever-changing nature of his thoughts is further illuminated by Donne’s varied usage of punctuations at each stage of the poem. In the opening stanza there are consistent caesuras making it slow and melancholy. This doleful tone remains till the second stanza. However in the final stanza, we see fast paced and longer lines, which convey how Donne feels more optimistic and certain about his love. The rhyme structure is ABABCDEEE consistently throughout the poem. Although the rhyme scheme remains the same, the idea conveyed by each stanza varies, indicating how even though Donne’s relationship with his lover is the same, his way of looking at it keeps changing.

In conclusion, the structure of this poem is intrinsic to exploring the theme of love, and delineates how figuring it out is no less than solving a puzzle. It also conveys how true love can only be experienced when it isn’t bound by constraints, and liberty is given to each other’s hearts.

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