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John Donne, an English metaphysical poet and a man who was devoted to church, was born in London in 1572 and raised in a Roman Catholic setting but later converted to Anglicanism. It was during a period where England and France was faced with theological and political turmoil for instance in France a protestant massacre happened in Saint Bartholomew’s day while in England Catholics were persecuted. His devotion to religion can be described as tumultuous and passionate and so much intertwined in his poetry. He studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. He earlier refused to pursue a degree in the University of Oxford and Canada avoiding to subscribe to the thirty-nine Articles the doctrine that defined Anglicanism. However, due to pressure he joined Anglican Church after his younger sibling was convicted by catholic loyalties and the sibling died while serving a jail term. His works which revolve around love lyrics, erotic verses, and some sacred poems were majorly written in the 1590s, forming two main volumes of work: satires, and songs and sonnets. He worked as a private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton in 1601, and during this period he secretly married Anne More, 16-year old niece of Lady Egerton. Anne’s father-in-law objected to the marriage and hence did not offer dowry for the couple and imprisoned Donne for some time.
Donne is described as a metaphysical poet for his capability to astound the audience and cajole new viewpoints through contradictory imageries, infrequent verse forms, multifaceted figures of speech useful to intricate and astonishing figurative conceits, and cultured themes argued according to unconventional and unanticipated ways of perceptive, elusive argument, creative syntax, and imagery borrowed from art, philosophy, and religion by using a comprehensive metaphor identified as a conceit (Culler, 203) Donne reached beyond the cogent and ordered organizations of the seventeenth century with his demanding and resourceful conceits, advancing the investigative essence of his period.
One of his poems is “The Canonization” which was published in 1633 and presents Donne’s wit and irony. The poem is about love that is being opposed. The voice asks his friend to be silent and let him love and if he has to be criticized let it not be about his ability to love but other weaknesses. He requests the friend to concentrate on other matters altogether and let him love (Unger 28). He wonders what his love has done to harm others, "who's injured by my love?" The speaker pronounces how intensely love moves him and his lover and stating their love will live on "for tombs and hearse.” He admits that he doesn’t care what everyone calls or thinks of them. Their love will ‘canonize’ them and transform them to sainthood. The love makes the lovers an image of perfection and mythical power and associates them with immortality and immunity to any harm (Brooks 101).
The poem in a satirical way devalues the old notions and fashions of love and changes by introducing new elaborate perspectives and ways, ultimately concluding that love relationship may be impossible in this life but can become mythological through poetry, and the narrator and his lover will be like saints to later groups of lovers (Unger 28). Actually it was the commencement of the contemporary age that was characterized by reformations and revolutions in all spheres of life.
Donne integrates the resurgence concept of the human body as a microcosm into his this poem, during the Renaissance period, many people believed that the microcosmic human body mirrored the macrocosmic physical world. Donne draws on the Neo-Platonist idea of physical love and religious love as being two exhibitions similar compulsion. He uses canonization to illustrate how lovers become so enthralled with each other that they are convinced they are the only beings in life and nothing else matters.
Donne’s canonization poem emerges at a period when Catholic leaders were putting a lot of effort to stop the Protestants challenge of the whole Roman Catholic Church. The translation of the Scriptures by William Tyndale was unauthorized by the Catholic Authorities and was becoming a threat to the Catholic doctrine basis. Other eminent changes in the society of the 16th century were transformations in methods of commerce, increased economic and social growth, great inventions in science, education and technology. Technological inventions like gunpowder were altering the nature of war and the fighting class nature of humanity.
His critics argue that the poem is what it seems to be, and can only be categorized as an anti-political love poem, others say, (Culler) grounded on Donne’s life (204) at the period of the poem’s structure, that it is essentially a kind of implicit, ironic contemplation on the failures Donne.