The Title of the Paper


English Lit 1


Lit Essay 2


John Donne was a metaphysical poet who wrote concise, short, complex lyrical poems with the theme of love. His poems speak of love in metaphors and images. Everything in the poem represents something. Donne though, has created a puzzle that the reader needs to figure out. Through his words he has expressed his thoughts, it is up to the reader to figure out what those words mean.


“The Canonization” begins with a command: “For God’s sake hold your tounge and let me love” (1). Right at the beginning of this poem the speaker is coming off as authoritive. Also from the very first line, we can tell that he is speaking to someone who disapproves of his relationship. He tells this person to stop criticizing his illnesses and leave him alone (2-3). All that matters to him is his love, and he needs the person he is talking to, to leave him alone about it so he can love (5-9). The puzzle in this stanza starts with the fact that we don’t know why these two people are being criticized as being lovers. All we are shown is that their relationship is disapproved of by certain people, and he is asking that they be left alone.


He starts speaking of merchant ships (11) and soldiers (16) and lawyers (16). What he is saying here is that even though he and his lover will love, that business will still run as usual, as will the law and wars. He also says “Add one man to the plaguy bill?” (15). What he’s saying there is that their love has not added one death to the black plague. That had they not loved, just as many people would have died. This stanza doesn’t have much of a puzzle to figure out, because he is simply telling the reader that their love is pure, and that their love effects nothing except each other. Again he is telling the person he is speaking to, to leave them alone.


In stanza three he starts with the metaphysical conceit. He compares himself and his lover to a fly and a candle, where they both play the fly and the candle (19-20). What he is saying with this comparison is that like a fly that is attracted to a candle, he and his lover are attracted to each other. And like the fly flying into the candle, he and his lover are both doing something that is going to shorten their lives. Because in this period, people believed that having sex shortened ones life. But then he speaks of the Phoenix (23). What he is saying here, is that like the Phoenix, though they will die from all the sex they will be having, that they will be resurrected again by their love (25-26). This also holds in it the story of Christ, who also dies and was resurrected from the grave. This here is the one religious metaphor he is using in this poem. If he is comparing them to Christ, he is not only speaking of them resurrecting themselves, but he is calling them and their love for each other as divine as Christ is himself.


Then he says, “We can die by it, if not live by love, and if unfit for tombs and hearse our legend be, it will be fit for verse” (28-30). What he is saying here, is if they are not fit for death, what are they fit for? And when they do die, that their love, as well as they will live forever through the verses of this poem. In the last two lines of this stanza he says that they have become saints who have been canonized because their love is so ideal, and like saints who have been long dead, they too will be followed and worshipped for eternity (35-36).


The final stanza states that the reader should follow their example and show love for your lover as they do (37-45). He speaks of a hermitage (38), which is a symbol for the world built for you and your lover. In the beginning of a relationship, your world is just for you and your lover, it