Imagery and symbolism in The Extasie

The two main strands of imagery are horticultural and military, with some sexual images also.


The horticultural imagery is most important in the discussion on transplanting and also in ‘to' entregraft our hands' (l.8). Both processes suggest union:

  • the plant to new soil
  • the graft, to a new stock.

We actually talk, too, of ‘propagation' in horticulture, as the poet does in l.12. The word is ambiguous here, for ‘propagation' is also used to mean ‘making pregnant'.

  • Pregnancy is suggested directly in l.2, and ‘pillow' could suggest that, as well as the more general association with sexual activity (l.1).
  • Conversely, ‘The violets reclining head' (l.3) would suggest modesty, as violets symbolise modesty.


Military imagery comes with the idea of two armies negotiating a truce (l.13-17), quite an extended simile. The image suggests not so much former hostility, as great strength on both sides. This is an equal match. The military imagery is picked up in ll.54,55; and l.68.

Scientific references

As is typical of Donne, there are many scientific references too:

  • ‘concoction'(l.27)
  • ‘mixture of things'(l.34)
  • ‘Atomies'(l.47)
  • ‘drosse… alloy'(l.56)
  • ‘blood'(l.61).

Behind much of this is the same question: what fusion can be made which will result in an unchangeable final state (‘whom no change can invade')?

Investigating The Extasie
  • Read through the first ten lines of The Extasie
    • These lines contain a riot of images
      • What others can you see besides those mentioned already?
  • There is also an imagery of language in the poem
    • Can you trace this through, and say what its significance is?
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