Literary Analysis: John Donne's "The Canonization"

Updated on April 14, 2018
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Rukhaya MK, an award-winning writer, has published her works in national and international anthologies and journals.


The impulsive and dramatic opening in John Donne's "The Canonization" is characteristic of the poet. Donne wants others to leave him alone to relish his love in peace. He describes the various ways in which his aristocratic friends while away their time. They travel, they try to get posts in in the government by virtue of flattery or cultivation of a king or a lord. The poem seems to be written in reaction to the critics of his love-life. Writing, is not only aspiration for him, but one of the very activities of living, and he will be obliged to be left uninterrupted. The poet rather prefers scorn at his palsie (disease that causes paralysis), gout (inflammation of joints caused by constant consumption of wine and rich food) or his five grey hairs ( the five senses that have lost their virility with the onset of age).The poet does not mind his love being considered an infirmity, but he wishes that his friend confines his derision to bodily ailments and worldly fortune.

The speaker ascertains that nothing has changed in the world owing to their love It has the minimum effect of affecting two individuals. The sight of the lover has just drowned his lovers in his, but not merchant ships. The poet's tears have not overflowed even the farmer's ground. Neither has the blissful love's coolness removed a spring time in the life of others. The heats or his hot passions have not added to the fever of the Plague. The poet thus mocks at his friend thrpugh hyperbole, exemplifying that the friend is an anti-romantic who is dry and logical in his attitude to passion in general. Donne parodies the Petrarchan writers who had exaggerated their sufferings through far-fetched conceits.

Donne asserts that they may be called whatever the world chooses to call them. The poet presents to us a picture of martyrs as he portrays the lovers as flees who destroy themselves in order to prove their love. They are likened to tapers that destroy themselves in order to exist. The poet also claims that they find in each other the powerful eagle and the timid dove, the eagle usually preying upon the latter. We find a similar comparison in George Herbert's poem "The Sacrifice": "But who does hawk at eagle with a dove." The poet likens their union to that of the phoenix. The oneness, uniqueness and neutrality of their union to the outside world is suggested through this comparison. LIke the phoenix, they burn themselves to be consumed by the power of love and are regenerated. The poet does not consider physical passion to be considered the ultimate aim of love, but only a stage of development in the process towards being canonized

The poet declares that they can die gracefully in love if not live by it. If their love is not fit to confine itself to the expanse of the tomb, it will be eligible for versification by virtue of which it will live on eternally. They do not mean to prove themselves historically. The poet implies that they will build a beautiful memorial with stanzas. The poet utilizes the apt word 'sonnet' to signify something concise, precise and dedicated. The phenomenon of contracting things is Donne's signature st.

The final stanza is in the form of an invocation: "You who did contract into yourselves the soul of the whole world and throw it on the mirror of your eyes, making them such mirrors, that they gave you everything in epitomy, countries, towns and courts, we your worshipers pray you to petition heaven for us to give us a pattern, that is, a copying of your love." The poet asks to consider their love as an idealized pattern and implores with God to grant them something similar. Prof.Grierson suggests that now they have been canonized: now they are saints.

Reading of The Canonization

© 2018 Rukhaya M K


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    • profile image

      michael seyi 

      8 months ago

      just what i was looking for

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      Thanks... This was very helpful


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