Songs and Sonnets

Ramie Targoff

in John Donne, Body and Soul

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780226789637
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226789781 | DOI:
Songs and Sonnets

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Donne has long been celebrated as one of the great love poets of the English language. But what is it that distinguishes his love poetry, and why do we keep coming back to it? This chapter suggests that what distinguishes Donne as a love poet is at once the intensity of the pleasure he conveys in the moment of mutual love, and the ferocity with which he attempts to prolong that moment for as long as he can, knowing full well that its end may be near. In the Songs and Sonnets, he takes up the project of writing valedictory poems, but, in doing so, brings to the surface all of the anxieties that surround the task of bidding farewell and ensuring reunion through the medium of verse. It is in response to the fear of lovers' parting that the Songs and Sonnets are often most vital and alive, just as it is in response to the fear of death—when body and soul must part—that Donne's devotional verse becomes most animated. Indeed, Donne's attitude toward the bond between body and soul extends in crucial ways to his attitude toward the bond between two lovers.

Keywords: John Donne; love poets; love poetry; mutual love; valedictory poems; body; soul

Chapter.  11743 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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