Love, loss and geographical imagination in the poetry of John Donne

Love, loss and geographical imagination in the poetry of John Donne.

John Donne’s poetry is characterized by vast attitudes and emotions; it manifests love, loss and geographical imagination. All his poems are a reflection of complex experiences that can be discussed as love, loss and geographical imagination.

Donne’s poem ‘To his Mistris Going to Bed’ addresses love. It portrays Donne as a lover of women. In a series of metaphors, he refers to a woman as a continent (America). This shows that Donne lauds sensual pleasure (Donne, 1990).

In ‘The Extasie’, Donne tells us that love is the coming together of two souls. He, however, contradicts this view in ‘Twicknam Garden’ where he sounds disillusioned. Here, he describes love as ‘spider love’ which ‘can convert manna into gall’ (Gardner, 1985).

Spatial imagination is evident in Donne’s ‘Songs and Sonnets’. He makes references to world continents, the globe and round balls, seas, hemispheres, towns and maps among others. For example: ‘Let us possess one world, each hath one and is one’ (Donne & Redpath, 1956).

His spatial imagination is believed to have been attached to the past, his way of imagining space was cosmographic as opposed to the modern day cartographic way of imagining space. He uses many symbols and defined his ideas in geographic terms. For instance, when explaining the link between social ranks, he makes reference to concentric circles. Mapping social structure onto circles that are concentric enables us to picture geographic arrangement as well as the movement of people (Donne, 1990).

Donne encountered deep loss when she lost his wife. In his poem ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ he writes about love that is deep, subtle and profane. When he lost his wife, he writes the ‘Holy Sonnet 17’ where he regrets his wife’s death. He describes her death as paying back a debt to nature. He further illustrates his loss when he says ‘lest the world, flesh, yea, devil put thee out’ (Donne & Redpath, 1956).ReferencesTop of FormBottom of ForTop of Form

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Donne, J. (1990). Devotions upon emergent occasions: Together with Death’s duel. Grand Rapids, Mich: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Donne, J., & In Redpath, T. (1956). Songs and sonnets. London: Methuen.

Gardner, H. (1985). The metaphysical poets. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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