Terra Goodfellow Mrs. Ashmore English Dual Credit IV 14 November 2012 Literary Analysis of “Sweetest Love” by John Donne John Donne was believed to be one of the greatest poets and preachers of the 1600’s. He was very witty and educated, but also very emotional. These characteristics are very predominant in his writing (Stringer 1). This phenomenal poet, John Donne was born in the earlier part of 1572 in London. His parents were both very devout Roman Catholics, though he barely knew his father because he passed just before Donne turned four years old.
Donne’s mother was from a good family and when she was involved in the Church she and her family “endured much for the Roman Catholic doctrine” (Kermode 2). In 1593, John Donne’s brother passed away, and made Donne start to question his faith. John Donne eventually became an Anglican (Jokinen 1). While staying at the Lincoln Inn, John Donne had become friends with Christopher Brooke and in 1596 joined him on a naval expedition to Spain. He went on another expedition to the Azores in 1597. During his expedition to Azores he wrote “The Calm” (Jokinen 1).
In 1598 John Donne was hired to be the secretary for Sir Thomas Egerton, who, at the time, was a very predominant government official. In 1601 John Donne secretly married Sir Thomas Egerton’s niece, Ann More. When Ann More’s father found out he was furious. John Donne had tried to apologize and even wrote him a letter, but that wasn’t enough and he had John Donne fired and eventually imprisoned (Jokinen 1). Donne had trouble supporting himself and his family for the next fourteen years. In 1615, however, John Donne became an Anglican priest.
During this time, John Donne went on to receive a Doctor of Divinity degree from Cambridge University (Stringer 1). In 1616, John Donne “was appointed reader in divinity at Lincoln’s Inn, where, over the years, he both gave and received satisfaction” (Kermode 2). After his wife’s death in 1617, John Donne celebrated her memory by writing a sonnet and giving a sermon over her. Donne’s sermons took flight, and his career flourished. Donne was such a remarkable preacher, even preached in the Royal Court for King James I. In 1621, John Donne was appointed to be a dean of St.
Paul’s Cathedral and did so until his death on March 31, 1631 (Stringer 1). John Donne’s influence to write was everywhere around him. This intimate poet used almost every situation to write about. His first book of poems, Satires, was written during the time when he was struggling with his faith, and “is considered one of Donne’s most important literary efforts” (Jokinen 1). John Donne also wrote his love poems, Songs and Sonnets, at this time as well, which was close to the time when he met his wife, Ann More (Jokinen 1). During his expedition to Azores, John Donne wrote “The Calm” (Jokinen 1). Donne’s style, full of elaborate metaphors and religious symbolism, his flair for drama, his wide learning, and his quick wit soon established him as one of the greatest preachers of the Renaissance Era” (Jokinen 1). Donne used literally everything around him to paint a picture of inspiration. The inspiring poet went through a lot of rough patches in his life and the show in his writings. If one studied his work, they could tell when Donne was going through a joyous time, a loving time, a rough time, or just a mediocre time.
In his brilliant writing, “we learn of his family anxieties (the death of a daughter, a son missing in action, his own departure abroad) and his remorse for past sins” (Kermode 2). Donne also wrote when his wife passed during childbirth. A major part of John Donne’s success was when he was a preacher. He was one of the most successful preachers of his time. His sermons cut deep to the core because he didn’t just preach at people, he talked to people. He discussed things rather than throw things in your face.
Donne relied on everyday situations and morphed them into works of art. People craved this remarkable writer’s words, and they hung onto them desperately. Donne was very relatable to his audiences and I believe that is why he had so much success. He was a very talented and very intellectual man. My love, I’m not leaving because I’m tired of you. The world cannot show me a better love than you. I’m leaving because I have to. The sun has already set last night and risen today. He cannot understand how to go a shorter way because he only knows the one.
But believe me; I will make faster journeys since I don’t have so far to go. How weak is a man’s power, that if his good fortune fails him he can’t live any longer, or remember anything else. But if something bad happens, and we join together with our strength and we nurture it then we will overcome it. When you sigh, you sigh not the wind, but you sigh my soul away. When you weep, sadly, my blood will dry up. It cannot be that you love me as you say if in you, in my life, waste the best of me. Let not your heart think I’m bad.
Destiny will play its part and may our tears fulfill. But think that we’re really just asleep, we keep each other in hearts alive, never to be parted (Song n. p. ) In John Donne’s poem, “Sweetest Love,” John Donne is writing to his beloved wife Anne as he prepares to go on a long journey. Donne explains that he is not leaving to be cruel, or because of his wife, but because he needs to go on a journey. I would characterize the speaker as a man who loves his wife very much and wants what is best for her. He also doesn’t want her to be sad while he is gone.
John Donne’s tone does not change during the poem. His tone at the beginning of the poem is comforting and gentle. There is a slight change in the third stanza. It changes from a light, gentle tone, to a sad, slightly gloomy tone. Clearly, he loves his wife and wants to be with her, but he just isn’t able to do so. The situation of the poem is that Donne and his wife will be parted physically, but not mentally. In the first stanza, Donne uses a phrase that I really like, and I believe that it is vital to understanding the poem and the poet’s tone. The phrase says: But since that I Must die at last, ‘tis best To use myself in jest Thus by feign’d deaths to die. ” (Song) Donne is saying here that the temporary parting is simply practice for when one will eventually pass. He is trying to tell Anne that she needs to act as if Donne had died, in order to make it easier if he passes before her. Another phrase I love is: “When thou sigh’st, thou sigh’st not wind, But sigh’st my soul away;” (Song) I love how personal Donne is here with his wife; by saying the he is so much a part of her that when she breathes, she breathes his soul.
In the second stanza, Donne makes an analogy between his own personal journey, and the sun’s journey. Donne makes this analogy in order to comfort his wife by explaining to her that just like the sun goes away at night; it will always come up in the morning. Donne is telling his wife that he will come back to her. The poet uses short sentences in each of the six eight-lined stanzas. The syntax of the poem puts a comforting feeling, which is how I believe the author wanted it. It reveals an optimistic state of mind. The poem’s stanzas develop and get deeper the farther you get into the poem.
Donne just continues to express his love for his wife and to comfort her. The poem does contain a rhyme scheme, and that helps the poem flow. It provides elegance to the poem. The theme in this poem evidently states that no matter how far away physically you are from your loved one, you will always be there in their heart, and you two will “ne’er parted be” (Song). John Donne was a phenomenal writer who wrote with not just a pen, but his heart and soul. His writing is very personal and when one reads his work, that person can definitely see that in his powerful words.
Donne was not just a writer or a preacher, but a person with an amazing talent to capture people with his words.
Jokinen, Anniina. “The Life of John Donne. ” Luminarium. 22 June. 2006. 14 Nov. 2012.
Kermode, Frank. “John Donne. ” British Writers Ed. Ian Scott-Kilvert. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979.
Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.
“Song. ” N. p. poemhunter. com. web. 19 November 2012. 2012. Stringer, Gary A. “Donne, John.
” World Book Advanced. World Book, 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
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