Metaphysical poets, selected poems Contents
- Donne, John
- John Donne's early life
- John Donne - from Catholic to Protestant
- John Donne's marriage and its aftermath
- John Donne - The Reverend Dean
- Herbert, George
- Crashaw, Richard
- Vaughan, Henry
- Marvell, Andrew
- King, Henry
- Lovelace, Richard
- Cowley, Abraham
- Philips, Katherine
- Cleveland, John
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context: ideas and innovations
- Aire and Angels
- A Hymn to God the Father
- A Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse
- A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day
- At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners
- A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Synopsis of Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Commentary on Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Language and tone in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Structure and versification in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Themes in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- A Valediction: of Weeping
- Batter my heart
- Death be not Proud
- Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
- Elegie XVI: On his Mistris
- Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
- Lovers' Infiniteness
- Oh my blacke Soule!
- Satyre III: 'On Religion'
- Show me Deare Christ
- Since She Whom I Lov'd
- Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre
- The Anniversarie
- The Dreame
- The Extasie
- The Flea
- The Good-morrow
- The Sunne Rising
- This is my playes last scene
- Twicknam Garden
- What if this present
- Affliction I
- Easter Wings
- Jordan I
- Jordan II
- Love II
- Prayer I
- The Church-floore
- The Collar
- Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Hymn to St Teresa
- St Mary Magdalene, or the Weeper
- To the Countesse of Denbigh
- Ascension - Hymn
- The Night
- The Retreate
- The Water-fall
- A Dialogue between Soul and Body
- On a Drop of Dew
- The Coronet
- The Definition of Love
- The Garden
- The Mower Against Gardens
- The Mower to the Glo-Worms
- The Mower's Song
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun
- The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers
- To his Coy Mistress
- Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax
Synopsis of Going to Bed
Donne wrote some twenty elegies, nearly all, if not all, in his youth. An elegy is commonly defined as a poem that deals either with a general sadness, or mourning the loss of someone specific. Thus John Milton's poem Lycidas is about the death of a former fellow-student. Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is a more general meditation on death and fame (or lack of it).
Light-hearted love poems
However, Donne's elegies are totally different. Originally, the elegy was a poem written in ancient Greek times in a certain poetic form, the elegiac metre. This form, like another, the Ode, came to be associated with mournful subjects, but not exclusively so. The Roman poet Sextus Propertius, for example, wrote books of elegies, nearly all of which were fairly light-hearted love poems, with dramatised scenarios of lovers. It is this model that Donne is following in his elegies. Book 1.2 of Propertius' Elegies has one entitled Love Goes Naked.
On this website, there is a brief analysis of Donne's elegy On his Mistris: a love scenario depicting his girlfriend's desire to accompany him on a dangerous voyage disguised as his page boy, and the reasons why he does not think this a good idea. Another elegy, not analysed, is His Picture, which imagines his return from such a voyage, weather-beaten and having lost his good looks. At least the picture of himself that he gave his girlfriend will remind her with what she originally fell in love. Most of the poems are very funny, Donne's wit making the various scenarios absurd, or just very clever with his conceits and arguments.
Donne's wit and humour in issuing an invitation to sex prevent his poems becoming pornographic. There is far too much intellectual play to arouse lustful images.
A celebration of nakedness
Even in this poem, where nakedness is celebrated, the theological and geographical conceits take the focus off the purely sensual, and the male fantasy of seeing a woman naked is transformed into a delicate artistic balance of self-mocking humour and desire.
A note on numbering
You need to be aware the numbering of the elegies differs slightly according to which edition you are using. This one is usually numbered XIX, but in some editions may be numbered XX.
- What do you think the difference is between the erotic, the pornographic and the sexual joke?
- Do you find Going to Bed funny?
- Where would you say the humour lies?
- Do you find Going to Bed funny?
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