The Symbolism and Literary Functions in Milton’s and Donne’s Poetry
The discussion of how his “light is spent”(1) has a double entendre, as it can be taken literally as he says he has completely spent in only half of his life or it can be understood in the discussion of how it is spent, relating it to currency. The big relation between the two appears when he describes his “one talent” (3) he uses to “serve therewith my Maker” (5), which describes his commodity granted by God that he should use to serve him with: Light, (which I think means eyesight, due to his description of a dark world) which directly parallels to the talent belonging to the lord which was given to his servants. This is used in “When I consider” to demonstrate how he may benefit God without eyesight, whereas in The Parable of the Talents it is used to demonstrate how the servants followed the Lord’s orders.
They are structured almost identically: there is one line, followed by 3 lines indented, followed by another non-indented line, followed by 3 indented lines, followed by a turn starting in lines 8-10, which causes a shift to one non-indented line, 2 indented lines, then one non-indented line, then two indented lines. The significance of the turn in “When I consider” allows for the shift to answer the question of what the writer should do about his situation (being blind and wanting to serve God), wheras in “On the late Massacre in Piedmont” it goes from a negative tone about how people are being massacred to a more positive tone as it talks about how their souls will go to heaven.
The form of the poem is interesting as it is all contained in a single stanza. It also uses Iambic Pentameter with rhyming couplets, although they are not all the same size. The main argument presented by this poem is how his memory will not last physically, but mentally, through his works and what his works inspired. This can be seen when he says “WHAT needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones” (1), as he is asking what Shakespeare’s physical remains are needed for, which is explained later to be nothing, as his legacy is not physical, but mental.
In “Song”, the argument made is that women, especially if they are beautiful, are not trustworthy. This is emphasized the most in the last stanza, where it says that “Though she were true, when you met her, And last, till you write your letter, Yet she Will be False, ere I come, to two, or three.” (23-27). In “Love’s Alchemy”, the argument made is that like the fruits of alchemical study, the search for love’s “hidden mystery”(5) is just as fruitless, even in the search by those like the author who have experienced love for a long time. In “The Flea”, the main argument is that the persona and the person “more than married are”(11) due to the mixing of their blood inside a flea that bit them both. He also argues that killing the flea is like killing one’s self.
A valediction is essentially the act of saying farewell. One image is produced by the mention of gold foil, as although they must leave they will still remain connected, like gold being hammered till it reaches “airy thinness”(24). Another image is the sadness they feel can conjure up enough tears to create a flood and a great tempest, although their strength will prevent that.
Death is argued to not be as bad as one would think: he compares it to be nothing but “rest [or] sleep”(5). Moreover, he says that Death is naught but a slave to things such as kings, chance, and men who are desperate for something, which are all essentially all causes for death. Finally, his finishing blow is when he states that Death is just a short sleep before “we wake eternally”(13).
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