'Ecstasy , The' by John Donne

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Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;
So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.
As 'twixt two equal armies fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin'd
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again
And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
Of what we are compos'd and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls. whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They'are ours, though they'are not we; we are
The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers' souls descend
T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.
To'our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love reveal'd may look;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Ecstasy, The

A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

John Donne's "Poetry, Ecstasy, The" is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores the relationship between poetry and transcendence. The poem is divided into three sections, each of which presents a different perspective on the relationship between poetry and divine ecstasy.

In the first section of the poem, Donne presents the idea that poetry is a means of accessing the divine. The poet describes the process of writing poetry as a kind of spiritual exercise, comparable to the religious practices of prayer and meditation. He suggests that through the act of writing, the poet is able to transcend the limitations of the physical world and connect with something greater than themselves.

This idea is expressed most clearly in the lines, "We can die by it, if not live by it, but / Not live by it, did not our Saviour die." Here, Donne seems to be suggesting that the act of writing poetry is a kind of sacrificial act, similar to the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. By giving themselves fully to the act of writing, the poet is able to access a higher state of consciousness, one that is closer to the divine.

The second section of the poem, however, presents a more ambiguous view of the relationship between poetry and transcendence. Here, Donne suggests that while poetry may be a means of accessing the divine, it is also a source of danger and temptation. He warns that the pursuit of poetic inspiration can lead to a kind of moral decay, a loss of moral restraint that can ultimately lead to spiritual ruin.

This idea is expressed most explicitly in the lines, "Poets are damned, but not all: some are blest; / For, when they write a world, they rule a breast." Here, Donne seems to be suggesting that while some poets are able to use their gift to access the divine, others are corrupted by it, and become lost in their own fantasies. The act of writing becomes a kind of self-indulgence, a way of satisfying one's own desires rather than a means of connecting with the divine.

The third section of the poem brings these two perspectives together, suggesting that the relationship between poetry and transcendence is both complex and paradoxical. Donne suggests that while poetry may be a means of accessing the divine, it is also a means of exploring the darker aspects of the human psyche. He suggests that the poet's ability to explore these darker aspects of human experience is what makes poetry so valuable, and so dangerous.

This idea is expressed most powerfully in the final lines of the poem, where Donne writes, "And if no piece of chronicle we prove, / We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms; / As well a well-wrought urn becomes / The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs." Here, Donne seems to be suggesting that even if poetry cannot provide us with factual knowledge about the world, it can still be valuable as a means of exploring the human experience. It is through poetry that we are able to access the deeper, more complex aspects of our own psyche, and come to a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Overall, "Poetry, Ecstasy, The" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the relationship between poetry and transcendence. It challenges us to consider the complex and paradoxical nature of this relationship, and to question our own assumptions about what poetry is, and what it can do. Through its exploration of the dark and light aspects of human experience, this poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to move and inspire us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is an art form that has the power to transport us to another realm, to make us feel emotions we never thought possible. And one such poem that has the ability to do just that is "The Ecstasy" by John Donne.

The poem, written in the 17th century, is a beautiful exploration of love, both physical and spiritual. It is a celebration of the union between two souls, a merging of bodies and minds that transcends the physical realm and enters the realm of the divine.

The poem begins with the speaker describing his lover's eyes, which he sees as "two hemispheres" that contain the entire universe. He then goes on to describe the moment when they first met, and how their souls were immediately drawn to each other.

As the poem progresses, the speaker describes the physical act of love, but he does so in a way that elevates it to a spiritual experience. He speaks of their bodies merging together, becoming one, and how this union is a reflection of the union between their souls.

The poem reaches its climax in the final stanza, where the speaker describes the moment when he and his lover reach a state of ecstasy. He speaks of their souls merging together, becoming one, and how this union is a reflection of the union between their souls.

The language used in the poem is rich and sensual, with Donne using metaphors and imagery to convey the intensity of the experience. For example, he describes their souls as "two equal hemispheres," and their bodies as "two better worlds."

The poem is also notable for its use of religious imagery, with Donne drawing on his background as a Christian preacher to describe the union between the speaker and his lover as a reflection of the union between God and humanity. He speaks of their love as a "little world made cunningly," and of their souls as "a single violet transplant."

Overall, "The Ecstasy" is a beautiful and powerful poem that explores the nature of love and the human experience. It is a celebration of the physical and spiritual aspects of love, and a reminder that the two are not mutually exclusive. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul, and one that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

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