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
Commentary on The Extasie
The argument of the poem
The argument of the poem falls into three sections:
- The physical signs of the lovers' ecstacy (ll.1-20)
- Its philosophical meaning (ll.21-48)
- An invitation to return to the body: the need for incarnation (ll.49-76)
The lovers have reached a state where they feel their souls have, as it were, left their bodies:
- ‘our soules....hung 'twixt her and mee'
- while their bodies ‘like sepulchrall statues lay'.
There was a union, but it was a soul-union, not physical union, apart from
- ‘Our hands were firmly cimented'
- and ‘did thred/ Our eyes, upon one double string.'
Their only ‘propagation' was seeing each reflected in the other's eyes.
Donne imagines what some bystander would make of them. Certainly it would be a purifying experience for such a person. And for them, too, it has answered some questions about love and sex. In the first place, the ecstasy has been a union of souls, not of bodies.
Like a transplant
It is like transplanting. Donne was writing before organ transplants were even dreamed of, but plants were regularly transplanted to get better and better plants. The net result of their two souls being transplanted into one another is a single new soul which ‘Defects of lonelinesse controules'. It is fulfilled, where ‘no change can invade'.
So how are they to understand their bodies and physical sexuality?
- Firstly, we cannot be defined by our bodies: ‘They are ours, though they are not wee'.
- Yet we must be thankful to them. Donne refuses to belittle the part our bodies play.
- There always has to be an incarnation.
Souls cannot exist without bodies:
Though it to body first repaire
- The body consists of ‘affections' and ‘faculties', emotions and senses, and this is the only way for even ‘pure lovers soules' to manifest themelves,
he simply says.
- So there is an ‘invitation to sex' at the end, but it is almost for the benefit of others, not themselves. It is to be a revelation:
Weake men on love reveal'd may looke
like writing invisible thoughts down into a material and visible book. For the lovers themselves, it really will not make much difference ‘when we'are to bodies gone'.
- Look at lines 49-76 The Extasie
- Why won't it make much difference when they are ‘to bodies gone'?
- Why is Donne so aware of ‘other people' and what they will think, in these concluding lines?
- He isn't usually, is he?
- Compare these ‘Weake men' to the ‘dull sublunary lovers' of A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.
- How does Donne set up a them/us division?
- Compare Donne's philosophy of love and sex with other approaches current today
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