Words of Wisdom:

"Alas life has become clear, up with the glass, down with the beer" - Albert

John Donne's Unusual Conceits: Bizarre Imagery or Thoughtful Comparisons?

  • Date Submitted: 01/06/2012 05:41 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 64.1 
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What exactly do a flea and the intense emotion of love have in common?   Does the sun ever intrude upon you and your lover while in bed?   To most people these questions would draw nothing but quizzical or blank stares followed by perhaps a referral to one psychologist or another.   However, if one asked a certain young minister from seventeenth century London the same questions, he would have suddenly become inspired.   This exceptional personality was the metaphysical poet John Donne.
Many people debate whether Donne's metaphysical style of verse is genuinely contemplative comparison or merely eccentric imagery.   However, if one looks deep enough into the witty his witty works such as, "The Sun Rising," or "The Flea," they will find evidence to support both views.   It has been said of Donne's love poetry that it was "losing itself at times in the fantastic and absurd" (Grierson 25).   By using his unusual conceits, or far-fetched metaphors, John Donne utilizes his remarkable ability to draw a wistful sigh of love from any reader while shocking and twisting brain cells at the same time.   It is this innovative method of combining such passion and great intellect that entices poets like T. S.   Eliot to imitate him and others like Samuel Johnson to criticize him.
One example of John Donne's words coming off as a thoughtful and indeed intriguing comparison is presented in "The Sun Rising.”   In this composition, Donne proclaims in a conceit, " She is all states, and all princes, I, Nothing else is" (Line 21-22).   By this he is so boldly declaring that he and his own love are the center of the universe and all that is important (Carey 109).   He goes on to tell the "unruly sun," "This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere" (Line 30).   By these lines we can see that Donne is portraying love as an all-empowering emotion.   He is telling us that being in love signifies completeness, an obsession that makes all else negligible.  
When the speaker asserts to the sun, "If...


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