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The Ecstasy by John Donne

Haafizhah & Vaishu

Overview

 expresses his unique and unconventional ideas about love


 expounds the theme that pure, spiritual or real love can exist only in the bond of souls established by the bodies
 Donne criticizes the platonic lover who excludes the body and emphasizes the soul.
 Donne compares bodies to planets and souls to the angels that body and souls are inseparable but they are
independent

True Nature of Love

 The communication of the souls of lovers reveals the true essence of love.
 Love is not sex-experience. It is rather a union of two souls.
 Each soul appears to keep its identity The fusion of the two souls is the real consummation of love.
 The new soul is composed of ‘atoms’ which are beyond decay. Just as the essence of the individual is not the
body but the soul, in the same way, the essence of love is not sex but mutual dependence and affection.
 The body is no dross, but an alloy necessary for pure metals to become stronger. The body is the channel for the
souls to inter-communicate with each other.

Is Love physical of spiritual?


 To this old and complex question, Donne has a satisfactory answer. Love is dependent both on the soul and
body. Love has to be concretized.
 This is possible only through the physical play of love. Donne feels that physical love is enriched by the mutual
understanding of the souls of the two lovers. Spiritual love is not possible in a vacuum. Like heavenly beings who
influence the actions of men through manifestation, the souls must express themselves through the bodies.
 Finally, the poet feels that love ripens in the soul. As such, physical love and holy love are complementary. If
some lover observes the poet and his beloved, he will hardly find any change in their behavior when the lovers
return to their bodies.

Setting
 The first stanza provides the physical setting of the two lovers. On the bank of a river over grown with violet
flowers, the lovers sit quiet, looking into each other’s eyes and holding hands firmly.
 This physical closeness offers a romantic and pastoral setting—their hands cemented in mutual confidence and
the eyes as if strung on a thread.
 This sensually exciting scene is a forerunner to the actual physical union.
 The poet compares the two lovers to the two armies. The souls are like the negotiators. They are not committed
to either side. Only those who are gifted can understand the dialogue of the two souls, and realize the true
nature of love.
Commented [i-[1]:
 Passionate scene as the backdrop for the lovers to embrace
Analysis  described in erotic terms
 reference to pillow, bed and pregnancy suggest sexuality

WHERE, like a pillow on a bed,


A pregnant bank swell'd up, to rest Commented [i-[2]: image of violets symbolizes faithful love
and truth
The violet's reclining head,
Commented [i-[3]:
Sat we two, one another's best. holding each other’s hand and looking intently into each other's
eyes
 “one another’s best”  each person complement’s the other
Our hands were firmly cemented
By a fast balm, which thence did spring; Commented [i-[4]:
Sweaty palms
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread a sign of repressed physical attraction
Our eyes upon one double string.
Commented [i-[5]:
and our eye-beams (conceived as lines of light from the eye
So to engraft our hands, as yet rather than to the eye) intertwined and threaded our sight
was all the means to make us one; together as if on a double string.

And pictures in our eyes to get


Was all our propagation. Commented [i-[6]:
Their eyes meet and reflect the images of each other, and their
sights are woven together.
As, 'twixt two equal armies, Fate 

Suspends uncertain victory,


Our souls—which to advance their state,
Were gone out—hung 'twixt her and me.
Commented [i-[7]:
souls are outside their bodies negotiating like 2 armies.
And whilst our souls negotiate there, Their bodies meanwhile are motionless.
We like sepulchral statues lay ;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day. Commented [i-[8]:
Just as the outcome of a battle is uncertain where the opposing
armies are of equal strength, our two souls,
If any, so by love refined, 

That he soul's language understood,


And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood, Commented [i-[9]:
Only the person refined by love could understand the language
they speak to each other in those silent moments.
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. Commented [i-[10]:
The entire section stresses equality
Donne departs as a “purer” soul as when he first 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 :
Commented [i-[11]: they move with the help of the bodies.
Body is the medium of contact of the two souls. Therefore, the
But as all several souls contain lovers turn to their bodies and try to understand the mystery of love.
Mixture of things they know not what, Body is the medium to experience love

Love these mix'd souls doth mix again,


And makes both one, each this, and that.
Commented [i-[12]:
Just as all individual souls are a mixture, of unknown qualities,
A single violet transplant, Love re-mixes these mixed souls to make one soul that yet
The strength, the colour, and the size— contains both souls, so that each is also the other.

All which before was poor and scant—


Redoubles still, and multiplies. Commented [i-[13]:
a metaphor of a transplanted violet to show how two souls can
be inter animated and how this "new" soul can repair the defects
When love with one another so of each of the individuals souls.

Interanimates 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 composed, and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls, whom no change can invade.

But, O alas ! so long, so far, Commented [HA14]:


used to express grief, pity, or concern.
Our bodies why do we forbear?
Commented [HA15]:
They are ours, though not we ; we are Express sorrow at the thought body is being useless
Th' intelligences, they the spheres. Commented [HA16]:
Introduces reader to the significance of the bodies in the
experience of true love
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. Commented [HA17]:
Souls meet each other through the bodies.
Therefore, it wouldn’t have been possible for them to meet or
On man heaven's influence works not so, fall in love if the body “Yielded their senses' force to us”

But that it first imprints the air ;


For soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair. Commented [HA18]:
The soul must have a vessel to inhibit
Express importance of bodies
As our blood labours to beget Commented [HA19]:
Spirits, as like souls as it can ; Heaven works on man by imprinting the air and then allowing
the souls to leave the bodies
Because such fingers need to knit
Commented [HA20]:
That subtle knot, which makes us man ; Offspring of the lover’s soul
But they also need a body to inhabit
Body made through conception so this highlights the
So must pure lovers' souls descend importance of sex
To affections, and to faculties, Commented [HA21]:
Which sense may reach and apprehend, Express the importance of procreation
 Achieved through sex
Else a great prince in prison lies. Sets us his argument for sex
Commented [HA22]:
To our bodies turn we then, that so Feelings of the body
Natural instincts of the body: desire and lust for sex
Weak men on love reveal'd may look ;
Commented [HA23]:
Love's mysteries in souls do grow, If this does not fulifil the desires, it will become imprisoned like
But yet the body is his book. a great prince
“Great prince” shows the greatness of the soul
Commented [HA24]:
And if some lover, such as we, Implies that sex = love revealed
Have heard this dialogue of one, But also portrays the importance of the soul in the next line.

Let him still mark us, he shall see Commented [HA25]:


Perhaps, true love which grows in the soul?
Small change when we're to bodies gone. Next line suggests that sex and the body of the relationship are
significant
Commented [HA26]:
Focus: significance and beauty of the united souls rather than of
the bodies
Emphasizes the importance of the soul’s union over sex

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