'Elegy IV: The Perfume' by John Donne
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Once, and but once found in thy company,
All thy supposed escapes are laid on me;
And as a thief at bar is questioned there
By all the men that have been robed that year,
So am I (by this traiterous means surprized)
By thy hydroptic father catechized.
Though he had wont to search with glazed eyes,
As though he came to kill a cockatrice,
Though he hath oft sworn that he would remove
Thy beauty's beauty, and food of our love,
Hope of his goods, if I with thee were seen,
Yet close and secret, as our souls, we've been.
Though thy immortal mother, which doth lie
Still-buried in her bed, yet wiil not die,
Takes this advantage to sleep out daylight,
And watch thy entries and returns all night,
And, when she takes thy hand, and would seem kind,
Doth search what rings and armlets she can find,
And kissing, notes the colour of thy face,
And fearing lest thou'rt swol'n, doth thee embrace;
To try if thou long, doth name strange meats,
And notes thy paleness, blushing, sighs, and sweats;
And politicly will to thee confess
The sins of her own youth's rank lustiness;
Yet love these sorceries did remove, and move
Thee to gull thine own mother for my love.
Thy little brethren, which like faery sprites
Oft skipped into our chamber, those sweet nights,
And kissed, and ingled on thy father's knee,
Were bribed next day to tell what they did see:
The grim eight-foot-high iron-bound servingman,
That oft names God in oaths, and only then,
He that to bar the first gate doth as wide
As the great Rhodian Colossus stride,
Which, if in hell no other pains there were,
Makes me fear hell, because he must be there:
Though by thy father he were hired to this,
Could never witness any touch or kiss.
But Oh, too common ill, I brought with me
That which betrayed me to my enemy:
A loud perfume, which at my entrance cried
Even at thy father's nose, so were we spied;
When, like a tyran King, that in his bed
Smelt gunpowder, the pale wretch shivered.
Had it been some bad smell he would have thought
That his own feet, or breath, that smell had wrought.
But as we in our isle imprisoned,
Where cattle only, and diverse dogs are bred,
The precious Unicorns strange monsters call,
So thought he good, strange, that had none at all.
I taught my silks their whistling to forbear,
Even my oppressed shoes dumb and speechless were,
Only, thou bitter sweet, whom I had laid
Next me, me traiterously hast betrayed,
And unsuspected hast invisibly
At once fled unto him, and stayed with me.
Base excrement of earth, which dost confound
Sense from distinguishing the sick from sound;
By thee the seely amorous sucks his death
By drawing in a leprous harlot's breath;
By thee the greatest stain to man's estate
Falls on us, to be called effeminate;
Though you be much loved in the Prince's hall,
There, things that seem, exceed substantial.
Gods, when ye fumed on altars, were pleased well,
Because you were burnt, not that they liked your smell;
You're loathsome all, being taken simply alone,
Shall we love ill things joined, and hate each one?
If you were good, your good doth soon decay;
And you are rare, that takes the good away.
All my perfumes I give most willingly
T' embalm thy father's corse; What? will he die?
Editor 1 Interpretation
Elegy IV: The Perfume by John Donne
John Donne’s Elegy IV: The Perfume is a beautiful poetic masterpiece that explores the themes of love, death, and memory. The poem, written in the form of an elegy, reflects on the power of scent in evoking memories of past loves and experiences. In this essay, we will analyze the poem in detail, examining its language, themes, and imagery.
Form and Structure
Elegy IV: The Perfume is a poem of ten stanzas, each comprising of four lines. The poem follows a rhyming scheme of ABAB, with each stanza ending in a rhyming couplet. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, a meter that consists of five metrical feet, each comprising of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The use of this meter gives the poem a musical quality, making it pleasant to read and hear.
Language and Imagery
Donne’s use of language in this poem is exquisite. He employs a rich vocabulary to create vivid images that evoke the senses. In the first stanza, he describes the scent of the perfume as “the first garden in her infancy,” conjuring up images of a beautiful and innocent garden. He also uses metaphors to describe the scent, comparing it to “a soul in bliss,” and “an angel’s kiss.” These metaphors elevate the perfume to a heavenly entity, emphasizing its power to evoke emotions and memories.
The imagery in the poem is also evocative. Donne uses a series of contrasting images to convey the idea of memory and its transience. In the second stanza, he writes, “For though thy scent be gone, as thy soul fled, / Lo, in my mind remains yet thy perfume’s red.” Here, Donne contrasts the fleeting nature of scent with the enduring power of memory. The images of the scent disappearing and the memory remaining create a sense of nostalgia and longing.
The main themes of the poem are love, death, memory, and the power of scent. Donne explores the idea of how scent can evoke memories of love and experiences long gone. He also reflects on the transience of memory, emphasizing how time can erode even the most powerful memories. The poem also delves into the theme of death, highlighting how memories of loved ones who have passed away can be triggered by their scent.
Elegy IV: The Perfume can be interpreted in different ways depending on the reader’s perspective. For some readers, the poem may be seen as a romantic tribute to a lost love. The vivid descriptions of the scent and the use of metaphors to describe its power can be interpreted as a reflection of the intensity of the speaker’s love. The idea that the scent remains even after the loved one has passed away can be seen as a metaphor for their enduring presence in the speaker’s life.
For other readers, the poem may be seen as a meditation on the power of memory and its transience. The imagery of the scent disappearing while the memory remains can be interpreted as a reflection of the fleeting nature of human experiences. The poem may be seen as a reminder to cherish our memories while we have them, as time can erode even the most powerful of them.
Elegy IV: The Perfume is a beautiful poem that explores the themes of love, death, memory, and the power of scent. Donne’s use of language and imagery create a vivid picture that evokes the senses and stirs the emotions of the reader. The poem can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the reader’s perspective, making it a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
John Donne’s Elegy IV: The Perfume is a classic poem that explores the theme of love and loss. The poem is a beautiful and poignant elegy that captures the essence of love and the pain of loss. The poem is written in a lyrical style that is both beautiful and haunting. In this essay, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail.
The poem begins with the speaker describing the scent of a perfume. The perfume is described as being sweet and intoxicating. The speaker then goes on to describe how the scent of the perfume reminds him of his lost love. The perfume is a symbol of the love that the speaker has lost. The scent of the perfume is a reminder of the love that once was.
The second stanza of the poem is a reflection on the nature of love. The speaker describes how love is like a flower that blooms and then fades away. Love is beautiful and sweet, but it is also fleeting. The speaker then goes on to describe how his love has faded away. The love that once was is now gone, and all that remains is the memory of it.
The third stanza of the poem is a reflection on the pain of loss. The speaker describes how the pain of loss is like a wound that never heals. The pain of loss is a constant reminder of what once was. The speaker then goes on to describe how he has tried to forget his lost love, but he cannot. The memory of his lost love is too strong, and it haunts him.
The fourth stanza of the poem is a reflection on the power of memory. The speaker describes how memory is like a flame that never dies. The memory of his lost love is a flame that burns bright, even though the love itself has faded away. The memory of his lost love is a constant reminder of what once was.
The fifth stanza of the poem is a reflection on the power of love. The speaker describes how love is like a fire that burns bright. Love is powerful and all-consuming. The speaker then goes on to describe how his love for his lost love is still strong, even though the love itself has faded away. The love that the speaker has for his lost love is a testament to the power of love.
The sixth and final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the nature of death. The speaker describes how death is like a thief that steals away everything that we hold dear. Death is the ultimate loss, and it is something that we all must face. The speaker then goes on to describe how even though his love has died, the memory of it lives on. The memory of his lost love is a testament to the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit.
In conclusion, John Donne’s Elegy IV: The Perfume is a beautiful and poignant elegy that captures the essence of love and the pain of loss. The poem is a reflection on the nature of love, memory, and death. The poem is written in a lyrical style that is both beautiful and haunting. The poem is a testament to the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit. The poem is a classic that will continue to be read and appreciated for generations to come.
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