Analysis of Lover’s Infiniteness, by John Donne

Lover’s Infiniteness

John Donne born in 1572 was the main representative of metaphysical poets. He was an English poet who became a cleric later in life and impressed the kings with his sermons. His poems are known for their abrupt openings, powerful images, vibrant language and paradoxes. His poems had a personal tone and it reads as if someone is speaking. Some analysts call it the speaker, the lyrical voice and sometimes the poet. Other remarkable features of Donne’s poems are the extended metaphors and metaphysical conceits. Apart from poems John Donne also wrote epigrams and translated other’s works. Lover’s infiniteness is a love poem where he even uses trading words; something that is generally not seen in his love poems.

The poem starts off as if picking up something said before, which is the evident style of Donne. He tells his love that he must have all her love for he has done everything to earn it. He had traded all his treasures to get her love; his treasures being the ‘sighs, tears, oaths and letters’. He says he has given everything that was asked for but he was not getting his due. Now he was wondering if her love was partial; some given to him and some to others. He was sad and jealous that he did not have all of her love.

In the second stanza he goes back in time and says that ‘then’ she had given ‘all’ her love, all that she had. But since ‘then’ there have been some changes. A new love has been created and this might be men who outbid the poet with their stocks of sighs, tears, oaths and letters. He warns her that this new love cannot be trusted and can bring fear. She had not vowed this change to him either. Yet, he says, that once the heart is given, it is his and he will use it as his and grow all that he wants to grow.

In the third stanza he says that he had not got all her love. Then he makes a philosophical statement when he says “He that hath all can have no more”. One who is full inside seeks nothing outside. Since he is seeking her love he knows he does not have all of it. And his love admits of new love as there are new rewards everyday. It is true that a person in love gives the heart only once. In love you don’t give it one day and take it back another day. If she cannot give it, it means she never gave her heart in the first place. Love riddles are like that says the poet; though the heart goes it stays at home. This means that the heart given is returned with the same love. Thus when one loses the heart, one is saving it. This is true love. He says he wants a more liberal way; instead of exchanging hearts, he wants to unite them in marriage. In marriage they will be one another’s and at the same time they will be one. He concludes his verse with the final decision on his love from his side.

The poem Lover’s Infiniteness has three stanzas, each with eleven lines. It has a regular rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEEE. The tone is anxious and wistful but the mood is romantic and dreamlike.He seems to woo her with all his ‘treasures’. One would expect wealth but what he terms as his treasures are his sighs and tears and this is hyperbole. In the second stanza he compares her heart to a tree and whatever grows there is for the poet to take. Repetition of the words ‘sigh, tears, oath and letter’ adds a lyrical quality to the poem.  So too the use of ‘all and shall’, the repetition at the end of each stanza gives a lyrical mood to the poem. Love is indeed infinite when it is shared with others.

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Author: Facilitator