Friday, April 16, 2010

The Canonization

by John Donne

For God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love,
Or chide my palsy, or my gout,
My five grey hairs, or ruin'd fortune flout,
With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve,
Take you a course, get you a place,
Observe his Honour, or his Grace,
Or the King's real, or his stamped face
Contemplate, what you will, approve,
So you will let me love.

Alas, alas, who's injur'd by my love?
What merchant's ships have my sighs drown'd?
Who says my tears have overflow'd his ground?
When did my colds a forward spring remove?
When did the heats which my veins fill
Add one more to the plaguy bill?
Soldiers find wars, and lawyers find out still
Litigious men, which quarrels move,
Though she and I do love.

Call us what you will, we are made such by love;
Call her one, me another fly,
We'are tapers too, and at our own cost die,
And we in us find the'eagle and the dove.
The phoenix riddle hath more wit
By us; we two being one, are it.
So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit,
We die and rise the same, and prove
Mysterious by this love.

We can die by it, if not live by love,
And if unfit for tombs and hearse
Our legend be, it will be fit for verse;
And if no piece of chronicle we prove,
We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms;
As well a well-wrought urn becomes
The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs,
And by these hymns all shall approve
Us canoniz'd for love;

And thus invoke us: "You, whom reverend love
Made one another's hermitage;
You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage;
Who did the whole world's soul contract, and drove
Into the glasses of your eyes
(So made such mirrors, and such spies,
That they did all to you epitomize)
Countries, towns, courts: beg from above
A pattern of your love!"

1 comment:

  1. John Donne’s poem, “Canonization,” is a poem about love. The speaker is a sardonic, love-struck man addressing someone in opposition to his love. He is angry at first that anyone would attempt to get in the way of his love. His love has not harmed the audience nor has it, in any way harmed anyone. He cannot see any reason that anyone could be reasonably opposed to their love. He beseeches the audience to let him live. He does not care what others think of him so long as they let him love. As the poem shifts in tone he compares his love to the alchemical creation of the phoenix, but this phoenix is not brought life and destroyer by fire, rather by love. He demands that the love he shares shall is an apotheosis and that through it they shall be “canonized.” He finishes his dramatic monologue by telling how future generations will invoke them in the name of love. Through the use of the erotesis, one key metaphor and the antistrophe, Donne creates a complex puzzle of a poem that exemplifies the idea that love dominates all things.
    The erotesis is used to emphasize the impact or lack thereof, that his love has had on the world. “Who's injured by my love? /What merchant's ships have my sighs drown'd? / Who says my tears have overflow'd his ground? / When did my colds a forward spring remove? / When did the heats which my veins fill / Add one more to the plaguy bill?” He is enraged that any should find fault with such a harmless thing. He lists examples of the going-ons of the world that have caused great harm to the people of the world. In this verse and the one previous to it he makes a pointed social commentary while still furthering the theme. How could someone be so opposed to his love when so many more destructive things are happening in the world. The speaker is angry, and rightfully so that anyone could be so petty as to concern himself with a lover’s relationship when people are dying of plague, lands are flooding, and lives are lost in other ways. Ultimately, the speaker has justified his love in that it needs no justification. His love has hurt no one and to try to stop in would be petty and without reason.
    The key metaphor is an alchemical allusion to the phoenix, “The phoenix riddle hath more wit / By us ; we two being one, are it”, the mythical bird was one of the necessary reagents in order to transmute a common metal to gold. The theory of its creation was that one must combine the two polar opposites of an eagle which embodied strength and power, and the dove which embodied peace and hope. In this way they are the key to the greatest miracle alchemists sought to complete and are the alchemical vision of perfection. Not only does this make them a powerful image of perfection and mythical power—even godliness—but it also associates them with immortality and immunity to destruction. The phoenix cannot be killed, but rather, dies and is reborn in a never ending cycle.
    In a literal sense they have become immune to a symbol of perfection but in a metaphorical sense this transformation goes much farther. They are permanently united and to divide is to kill them both. In their union they are together and it is said “to one
    neutral thing both sexes fit.” This is important because it has made them more of a neutral entity, taken away some of the sexuality and purified their relationship. This purification takes them another step.