John Donne was an intellectual poet. He scorned the conventional poetic images and dramatic realism. For a century after his death he was ignored but after that especially from the first half of the 20th he became popular and many English poets considered Donne as their idol. One can say his poems were far ahead of times and that might be the reason that his poems continue to inspire the current lot of budding poets. His witty arguments, abrupt beginnings, new and daring images continue to stimulate the readers. Donne lived between 1572 and 1633 and wrote numerous poems. He also wrote epigrams and translated some works to English. This poem ‘The Anniversary’ is believed to have been written on the anniversary of having met his love.
In the first stanza of the poem Donne says that all in this world, including the sun, is a year older with the passing of a year. He mentions the king and the sun; one is the most powerful on the earth and the other is the most powerful in the sky. So, even the most powerful grow old. The only exception to this phenomenon is their love. It’s a year since they met but their love has only grown and not diminished or decayed. Their love is timeless, ’no tomorrow or yesterday’. Their love keeps on running and yet it remains as strong as it was on the first day.
Donne states that when they die they will be buried separately and it might seem as if they were divorced. Like princes they will be buried and as an afterthought he adds that they were no less than princes as they were empowered by their love. The death is for the physical body and not for the soul. And in the soul there is nothing but love and all other thoughts are just prisoners of love. So when the bodies are buried in the two different graves, the souls will rise to become one again.
In the final stanza he declares that with the rising of the soul they will be blessed but then they were no different from the rest. In the ether world all souls were blessed therefore they would not be very different. It’s only in this world that they can be special, like kings and even like subjects. They were safe here as they will not cheat each other as they consider themselves as one and not as two different people. Donne is emphasising that they should live without fear, love nobly and add on the years till they become sixty years old. In the last line he says that it was their second year of love therefore their second year of reign.
The poem ‘The Anniversary’ has thirty lines; ten lines in three stanzas. The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDDDD. However they do not perfectly rhyme but the last few letters of the words are the same especially in the last four lines of each stanza. The poem is mostly in iambic meter with the first, second and seventh lines being tetrameter. All the other lines are pentameter. The paradox is the central theme of the poem. He is celebrating the anniversary of their love but talks about death and decay. Of course he says that their love was beyond all that and was timeless. As in most poems he is arrogant in love. The imagery of sun and kings is to show the pinnacle of grandeur and then he says even they age and die. True to being a metaphysical verse, Donne has elevated the importance of soul over body.‘ The Anniversary’ is one of the more accessible poems of Donne. Even the abrupt beginning is not seen in this poem. It is a straightforward poem which talks about the power of true love.