Lovers' Infiniteness

This closely reasoned poem deals with ‘Love's riddles', especially the riddle of whether we can ever love another person completely. There is, as in all the most effective Metaphysical poetry, a joining of an actual human experience with thinking through the meaning of the language used to describe that experience.

Love as a transaction

The Marriage ContractHere two sorts of language are examined. One is the language of love as a transaction. Words like ‘treasure', ‘purchase', ‘bargaine', ‘outbid' are quoted, as is the legal principle of what is actually bought when a purchase is made, particularly of land or ‘ground'. If we ‘purchase' someone's love, is it like purchasing a piece of land, where we own everything that grows on it from then on, or is it like purchasing goods when what you see is yours but no more. We have to remember that, in Donne's day, many marriages did have contracts drawn up by the parents.

Investigating Lovers' Infiniteness
  • In Lovers' infiniteness
    • What has Donne spent on ‘purchasing' his mistress's love?
    • Does he feel he ‘owes' anything more?
  • Having spent everything, what is his problem?

Love that grows

The other sort of language we often use of love is that of growth, using more natural imagery. Love does grow, it is not fixed. This is our human experience. Of course, it can also shrink, unfortunately, but Donne avoids that thought. So, even after a declaration of giving all our love to someone, that love could still grow. The declaration does not fix it in size.

But then he mixes the two languages and asks: who does the increase belong to: the seller or the buyer? This mixing forms the dilemma.

The unity of the lovers' world

The resolution comes by using a more religious type of language: that of the union of true love. Rather than ‘changing hearts' - that is ‘exchanging' as in a transaction - we actually ‘joyne' to become one. This is the language of Donne's The Extasie and of the Bible Genesis 2:24; John 17:11. The ‘way more liberall' here means the way of freeing us from this dilemma, this limited way of thinking. In the unity of the lovers' world, lies true infinity.

Investigating Lovers' Infiniteness
  • Would you say that Lovers' infiniteness is an idealistic poem?
    • If so, what exactly is idealistic about it?
  • Does this poem help you see what is metaphysical about Metaphysical poetry?
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