Dr. D. B. Gavani
1. The Good Morrow - John Donne
The good morrow by John Donne is considered to be one of the best poems belonging to the metaphysical school of poetry. This poem is the poet’s words to his beloved after a night of love making. This will help the readers unravel the beautiful meaning behind the complex metaphysical conceit in this poem and once that barrier is done away with; this poem will come across as one of the most powerful love poetry of all times. I hope you’ll enjoy going through the good morrow summary by John Donne
In the beginning of the Good morrow poem, the poet asks his beloved how they used to spend their lives before they had met each other. With his beloved in arms, the poet realizes how empty his life was before. He considers that phase of their lives to be as meaningless as the ones spent in slumber by the seven sleepers of Ephesus in the den when they were trying to escape the wrath of the tyrant Emperor Decius. Being without his beloved was as insignificant as those years which the seven sleepers had spent sleeping. It means that those years bore no importance in his life anymore. During those days when he was yet to discover true love, he would make up for that emptiness by indulging in other pleasures of life but now after understanding the meaning of love he realizes that those pleasures were very artificial. Now it seems to the poet as if he was a small child during those days who was being weaned on these materialistic pleasures of the world in the absence of true love which was like mother’s milk to that child. During those days all objects of beauty that he came across were nothing but her beloved’s reflection. To the poet her beloved was like a beautiful dream which was turned into reality. In the good morrow summary, it is worth mentioning that through false pleasures the poet might be indicating towards his various liaisons with other women which were just a reflection of the beauty which his true lover filled him with.
Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess our world; each hath one and is one.
In the second stanza of “The good morrow poem summary” the poet sheds light upon the bliss which envelops the lovers. He says that their souls rise in the light of the new morning of love in their lives. Their hearts are devoid of any kind of fear of commitment, misunderstanding or losing the one they love. Their presence in the each others life means so much to them that nothing catches their attention anymore. Donne proposes his loved one to turn their tiny room in which they make love into their only world. He says that he does not care about how much the sea discoverers expand the boundaries of the world with their discoveries. During those times when maritime discoveries were given utmost importance, the new inclusions to the map of the world meant nothing to the poet since his world only comprised of his beloved and him. Their respective worlds have now been fused into one. This drawing of an intellectual parallel from astronomy and geography strengthens the metaphysics of the poem.
If our two loves be one; or thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.
Next the poet talks about the unique beauty of the love which he and his beloved share. Donne says that that sometimes he and his beloved stare into each others eyes so longingly that they can see their faces in the others eyes. This refection of faces in the eyes reveals the true hearts of the lovers. Their hearts are true and spotless in love. This means that their love for each other enables the lovers to get rid of all their bad traits and harsh feelings towards the world which helps them become better people. The poet further adds that unlike the world which is divided in hemispheres, their world of love knows no boundaries. It does not have a sharp cold northern hemisphere. Nor does it have a western hemisphere which has to bid farewell to the sun. By drawing this reference to Geography again, the poet tries to give us an insight into the unparalleled bliss of his world of love where it is always warm and sunny.
The Good Morrow summary will help the readers in understanding the link which Donne draws from medieval alchemy towards the end of the poem to explain the immortality of the love which he shares with his beloved. The poet says to his loved one that their love is indestructible since it is pure. It is the hardest to relax the bonds of pure substances. The mixing of two things causes impurity which threatens the longevity of substances. The lovers do not feel this threat since their love is not mixed with any selfish demands or intentions of any kind and is perfectly pure. With such a strong bond of love between them the poet is convinced that nothing can ever decrease or stop the stream of love which flows between his beloved and him. We recommend you to skim through the following links to have a better idea of the poem “The Good Morrow”
“Thus through “The Good morrow” we see that love is capable of elevating a person to new heights from where he views his love and the world around him in a different light. Hope, you’ve loved going through the summary of Good Morrow and would like to read some more notes on the same.
2. THE PULLEY _ GEORGE HERBERT
In the poem, the central idea posited by Herbert is that when God made man, he poured all his blessings on him, including strength, beauty, wisdom, honor and pleasure. However, as in Pandora's box, one element remained. We are told that God "made a stay," that is, He kept "Rest in the bottome." We might, in modern parlance, call this God's ace. God is aware that if He were to bestow this "jewel" (i.e. rest) on Man as well then Man would adore God's gifts instead of God Himself. God has withheld the gift of rest from man knowing fully well that His other treasures would one day result in a spiritual restlessness and fatigue in man who, having tired of His material gifts, would necessarily turn to God in his exhaustion. God, being omniscient and prescient, knows that there is the possibility that even the wicked might not turn to Him, but He knows that eventually mortal man is prone to lethargy; his lassitude, then, would be the leverage He needed to toss man to His breast. In the context of the mechanical operation of a pulley, the kind of leverage and force applied makes the difference for the weight being lifted. Applied to man in this poem, we can say that the withholding of Rest by God is the leverage that will hoist or draw mankind towards God when other means would make that task difficult. However, in the first line of the last stanza, Herbert puns on the word "rest" suggesting that perhaps God will, after all, let man "keep the rest," but such a reading would seem to diminish the force behind the poem's conceit. The importance of rest -and, by association, sleep- is an idea that was certainly uppermost in the minds of Renaissance writers. Many of Shakespeare's plays include references to sleep or the lack of it as a punishment for sins committed. In Macbeth, for example, the central protagonist is said to "lack the season of all natures, sleep" and both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are tormented by the lack of sleep. Even Othello is most disconcerted by the fact that he is unable to sleep peacefully once Iago has poisoned him with the possibility of his wife's infidelity with Cassio. Herbert's Pulley, then, does not present a new concept. In fact, the ideas in the poem are quite commonplace for seventeenth century religious verse. What is distinctly metaphysical about the poem is that a religious notion is conveyed through a secular, scientific image that requires the reader's acquaintance with, and understanding of, some basic laws of physics.
Pulleys and hoists are mechanical devices aimed at assisting us with moving heavy loads through a system of ropes and wheels (pulleys) to gain advantage. We should not be surprised at the use of a pulley as a central conceit since the domain of physics and imagery from that discipline would have felt quite comfortable to most of the metaphysical poets.
3. TO HIS COY MISTRESS – ANDREW MARVELL
Andrew Marvell, an English poet, politician, and satirist, probably wrote "To His Coy Mistress" between 1650 and 1652. It was first published in 1681 (by his housekeeper!) several years after his death. Since then, it has become one of the most famous poems of its kind.
Marvell belongs to a group commonly known as the "Metaphysical Poets." The group includes some other poets we love: George Herbert, John Donne, and Richard Crashaw – all from the 1500s and 1600s. Their poems are famous for the surprising (and, at times, shocking and daring) use of language to explore BIG questions about love, sex, the earth, the universe, and the divine. Time holds a huge fascination for poets in Marvell’s era, and the phrase carpe diem (seize the day) has a special significance. "Life is short, so live it to the fullest," is one way to describe the carpe diem mindset.
The Metaphysical Poets celebrated imagination and wit. Wit often involves a lot of wordplay. Like "To His Coy Mistress," their poems often take the form of an argument or a line of reasoning (similar to what a lawyer might use in court). Such arguments are often parodies of actual arguments. The Metaphysical Poets also would frequently use their work to critique aspects of society, politics, and art that they see as flawed – kind of like the Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy. Satire. Parody. The Metaphysicals tend to poke fun at the super-serious way that other poets write about love and God, preferring a more light-hearted approach to weighty matters.
The speaker of the poem expresses a similar experience in this angst-y poem, which might just make you feel a little better about things. It’s also really funny, when you start to look at it closely. See, here are a few lines we love:
"To His Coy Mistress" is divided into three stanzas or poetic paragraphs. It’s spoken by a nameless man, who doesn’t reveal any physical or biographical details about himself, to a nameless woman, who is also biography-less.
During the first stanza, the speaker tells the mistress that if they had more time and space, her "coyness" (see our discussion on the word "coy" in "What’s Up With the Title?") wouldn’t be a "crime." He extends this discussion by describing how much he would compliment her and admire her, if only there was time. He would focus on "each part" of her body until he got to the heart (and "heart," here, is both a metaphor for sex, and a metaphor for love).
In the second stanza he says, "BUT," we don’t have the time, we are about to die! He tells her that life is short, but death is forever. In a shocking moment, he warns her that, when she’s in the coffin, worms will try to take her "virginity" if she doesn’t have sex with him before they die. If she refuses to have sex with him, there will be repercussions for him, too. All his sexual desire will burn up, "ashes" for all time.
In the third stanza he says, "NOW," I’ve told you what will happen when you die, so let’s have sex while we’re still young. Hey, look at those "birds of prey" mating. That’s how we should do it – but, before that, let’s have us a little wine and time (cheese is for sissies). Then, he wants to play a game – the turn ourselves into a "ball" game. (Hmmm.) He suggests, furthermore, that they release all their pent up frustrations into the sex act, and, in this way, be free.
In the final couplet, he calms down a little. He says that having sex can’t make the "sun" stop moving. In Marvell’s time, the movement of the sun around the earth (we now believe the earth rotates around the sun) is thought to create time. Anyway, he says, we can’t make time stop, but we can change places with it. Whenever we have sex, we pursue time, instead of time pursuing us. This fellow has some confusing ideas about sex and time. Come to think of it, we probably do, too. "To His Coy Mistress" offers us a chance to explore some of those confusing thoughts.
4. ON HIS ARRIVING – JOHN MILTON
This exists in manuscript and was printed twice during Milton's lifetime (in the Poems of 1645 and 1673), was most likely written in 1632 at a crucial time in Milton's life, just after his graduation from Cambridge. Milton here acknowledges that he may not seem as mature as some of his contemporaries but expresses a desire to use his talents well and his trust in God's will for him over time. One thing to understand about Milton's sonnets is their topical range. Not a writer of love sonnets in English (although the sonnets he wrote in Italian are love sonnets), Milton writes political sonnets, occasional sonnets, elegiac sonnets, and sonnets of personal meditation, like this one.
These lines introduce the poem's theme and create a metaphor of Time as a bird flying away with ("stol'n on his wing") Milton's youth. Here, the poet expresses his sense of how quickly time passes: "hasting days" and "full career." The poet here uses a seasonal metaphor to express that his time of life is a "late spring" but that so far, it has not shown any "bud or blossom," in other words any promise of fruit or achievements in his life. The poet remarks that he does not seem as old as he is (his look "deceive[s]" the truth that he is practically a man). "Inward ripeness" continues the natural metaphor of "bud" and "blossom" in line 4; the poet has more maturity or ripeness inside than he shows outside, and more than some other young people, the "more timely-happy spirits" have. But, note the various possibilities in the word "endur'th." The lines are grammatically inverted and could be paraphrased, "and inward ripeness, that imbues / clothes some others, appears less in me." The phrase "timely-happy spirits" can be understood to refer to those who are more comfortable with their age or whose age reflects more happily their inner being.
"It" may refer to the appearance of inward ripeness of line 7; whether ripeness appears less or more, now or later, it shall be just right according to his destiny, the "lot … / Toward which Time leads" him. Where the octave found dissonance between his inner and outward states of maturity, the sestet's answer is that time and the will of heaven will even things out according to plan. Note the multiple puns in this line: "measure" could mean a musical measure or a line of verse; "even" may be an adjective modifying "measure" or may lead the reader into the next line, "even to that same lot." Milton often places adjectives both before and after nouns, and he likewise often lets the word at the end of a line work in two different ways in each line. Critics have differed as to the precise interpretation of these lines, but, in general, they suggest that whatever the outcome of the speaker's life, it will be with God's knowledge and in accordance with His world. The "great Task-Master" is God.
The crisis created by Milton's awareness of the passage of time is one that can be resolved by the poet's choice to put his future in God's hands. In the first eight lines of the poem, Milton worries that time has passed too quickly. He has been at Cambridge studying, but has had little time to fulfill what he sees as his destiny. Milton is aware he is a talented poet, but instead of writing poetry, he has been studying. This precipitates a crisis of faith for the poet, who worries he has wasted precious time. But maybe the poet's talent, which "be it less or more," will be less when he is mature. He worries, although he is still confident of his future. In the final six lines of the sonnet, Milton acknowledges that time, whether "soon or slow," will still inevitably lead him to God. This is the same future that all men will face, "however mean or high." Time will lead Milton to God, if he can accept the limitations of earthly time. In these final lines, Milton finds the answer to his problem in giving control over his life to God and, as a result, his crisis of faith is resolved.
Milton uses this sonnet to symbolize the poet's journey from doubt to self-discovery. He feels guilty about his time spent studying when he has not published anything. He is slow to mature, and by "late spring no bud or blossom shew'th." But, in line 9, the pronoun "it," whose antecedent is unclear, but which is usually thought to refer to the poet's maturity, might suggest that the poet's talents will ripen with maturity, that rather than having wasted his youth, the poet has been marking time until he is mature enough to create the kind of poetry he feels destined to create. As he nears age twenty-four, the poet feels he is at the border between youth and manhood, a time to which he has "arrived so near."
5. THE RAPE OF THE LOCK – ALEXANDER POPE
Alexander Pope is one the finest poets that we come across in English literary world. He is dwarf and physically deformed person who is fallen in love with Arabella Fermer. We may presume that she is none other than Queen Anne whose beauty and physical firmament bewitched the hearts of men in those days. That is why he ridicules the mannerisms of his age in this mock epic.
The Rape of the Lock begins with a passage outlining the subject of the poem and invoking the aid of the muse. Then the sun (“Sol”) appears to initiate the leisurely morning routines of a wealthy household. Lapdogs shake themselves awake, bells begin to ring, and although it is already noon, Belinda still sleeps. She has been dreaming, and we learn that the dream has been sent by “her guardian Sylph,” Ariel. The dream is of a handsome youth who tells her that she is protected by “unnumber’d Spirits”—an army of supernatural beings who once lived on earth as human women. The youth explains that they are the invisible guardians of women’s chastity, although the credit is usually mistakenly given to “Honour” rather than to their divine stewardship. Of these Spirits, one particular group—the Sylphs, who dwell in the air—serve as Belinda’s personal guardians; they are devoted, lover-like, to any woman that “rejects mankind,” and they understand and reward the vanities of an elegant and frivolous lady like Belinda. Ariel, the chief of all Belinda’s protectors, warns her in this dream that “some dread event” is going to befall her that day, though he can tell her nothing more specific than that she should “beware of Man!” Then Belinda awakes, to the licking tongue of her lapdog, Shock. Upon the delivery of a billet-doux, or love-letter, she forgets all about the dream. She then proceeds to her dressing table and goes through an elaborate ritual of dressing, in which her own image in the mirror is described as a “heavenly image,” a “goddess.” The Sylphs, unseen, assist their charge as she prepares herself for the day’s activities.
The opening of the poem establishes its mock-heroic style. Pope introduces the conventional epic subjects of love and war and includes an invocation to the muse and a dedication to the man (the historical John Caryll) who commissioned the poem. Yet the tone already indicates that the high seriousness of these traditional topics has suffered a diminishment. The second line confirms in explicit terms what the first line already suggests: the “amorous causes” the poem describes are not comparable to the grand love of Greek heroes but rather represent a trivialized version of that emotion. The “contests” Pope alludes to will prove to be “mighty” only in an ironic sense. They are card-games and flirtatious tussles, not the great battles of epic tradition. Belinda is not, like Helen of Troy, “the face that launched a thousand ships”, but rather a face that—although also beautiful—prompts a lot of foppish nonsense. The first two verse-paragraphs emphasize the comic inappropriateness of the epic style (and corresponding mind-set) to the subject at hand. Pope achieves this discrepancy at the level of the line and half-line; the reader is meant to dwell on the incompatibility between the two sides of his parallel formulations. Thus, in this world, it is “little men” who in “tasks so bold... engage”; and “soft bosoms” are the dwelling-place for “mighty rage.” In this startling juxtaposition of the petty and the grand, the former is real while the latter is ironic. In mock-epic, the high heroic style works not to dignify the subject but rather to expose and ridicule it. Therefore, the basic irony of the style supports the substance of the poem’s satire, which attacks the misguided values of a society that takes small matters for serious ones while failing to attend to issues of genuine importance.
With Belinda’s dream, Pope introduces the “machinery” of the poem—the supernatural powers that influence the action from behind the scenes. Here, the sprites that watch over Belinda are meant to mimic the gods of the Greek and Roman traditions, who are sometimes benevolent and sometimes malicious, but always intimately involved in earthly events. The scheme also makes use of other ancient hierarchies and systems of order. Ariel explains that women’s spirits, when they die, return “to their first Elements.” Each female personality type (these types correspond to the four humours) is converted into a particular kind of sprite. These gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and nymphs, in turn, are associated with the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The airy sylphs are those who in their lifetimes were “light Coquettes”; they have a particular concern for Belinda because she is of this type, and this will be the aspect of feminine nature with which the poem is most concerned.
Indeed, Pope already begins to sketch this character of the “coquette” in this initial canto. He draws the portrait indirectly, through characteristics of the Sylphs rather than of Belinda herself. Their priorities reveal that the central concerns of womanhood, at least for women of Belinda’s class, are social ones. Woman’s “joy in gilded Chariots” indicates an obsession with pomp and superficial splendour, while “love of Ombre,” a fashionable card game, suggests frivolity. The erotic charge of this social world in turn prompts another central concern: the protection of chastity. These are women who value above all the prospect marrying to advantage, and they have learned at an early age how to promote themselves and manipulate their suitors without compromising themselves. The Sylphs become an allegory for the mannered conventions that govern female social behaviour. Principles like honour and chastity have become no more than another part of conventional interaction. Pope makes it clear that these women are not conducting themselves on the basis of abstract moral principles, but are governed by an elaborate social mechanism—of which the Sylphs cut a fitting caricature.
And while Pope’s technique of employing supernatural machinery allows him to critique this situation, it also helps to keep the satire light and to exonerate individual women from too severe a judgment. If Belinda has all the typical female foibles, Pope wants us to recognize that it is partly because she has been educated and trained to act in this way. The society as a whole is as much to blame as she is. Nor are men exempt from this judgment. The competition among the young lords for the attention of beautiful ladies is depicted as a battle of vanity, as “wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive.” Pope’s phrases here expose an absurd attention to exhibitions of pride and ostentation. He emphasizes the inanity of discriminating so closely between things and people that are essentially the same in all important (and even most unimportant) respects.
Pope’s portrayal of Belinda at her dressing table introduces mock-heroic motifs that will run through the poem. The scene of her toilette is rendered first as a religious sacrament, in which Belinda herself is the priestess and her image in the looking glass is the Goddess she serves. This parody of the religious rites before a battle gives way, then, to another kind of mock-epic scene, that of the ritualized arming of the hero. Combs, pins, and cosmetics take the place of weapons as “awful Beauty puts on all its arms.”