“SONG” by John Donne


GO and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find’st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

The poetry of John Donne is cleverly crafted ideas , argued out with a mocking tone .It is as though Donne is making fun of all the love poetry of the time. Here the mocking is not directed merely at the imaginary mistress who is supposed to be a difficult lady but the whole genre of love poetry which was mushy and sentimental.

The debunking goes on throughout the poem. “And find what wind/ Serves to advance an honest mind “is an obvious reference to the travels and sea-voyages one undertook to explore new territories but the way in which it is sung “And find what wind….”,you can almost see the mischief in the poet’s manner.

The patterns of the rhythms in each of the stanzas lend a flippant tone to the whole poem :

And find
What wind
And swear
No where

Yet she
Will be

Here poetry is not emotion recollected in tranquility or even the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions that the romantic poets of the later years would practice. Instead it is clever juxtaposition of ideas and carefully wrought rhythms. The juxtaposition of ideas is a familiar occurrence in metaphysical poetry. In this poem the poet is talking about the inconstancy of a woman, which is a mere idea and chances are that the theme is not rooted in the poet’s own experiences. The juxtaposition is achieved by first talking about several impossible things one would try to achieve to obtain a woman’s love and then at the end say it emphatically that all this may happen but the woman’s love will not remain constant.

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