The English writer and Anglican cleric John Donne is considered now to be the preeminent metaphysical poet of his time. The celebratory language is in terms of the royalty of love. Oft fed with true oaths, and with sweet salt tears; (All other thoughts being inmates) then shall prove. And yet, and yet … in that third and final stanza, more doubt threatens to creep in. It seems to exist outside of the bonds of time. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! This is the second year of our reign, for we are kings.’. Their love may not be subject to decay, but their bodies certainly are. In this three-stanza poem, the poet commemorates the first anniversary of seeing his beloved. And yet what makes ‘The Anniversary’ more than just a crude strutting, a celebration of two people in love which fails to go beyond the banal ‘our love is as strong as the day we first laid eyes on each other’, is the undercurrent of fragility, or at least an acknowledgement of the possibility of fragility, that runs under the poem, particularly the second and third stanzas. Let us live without fears – founded or unfounded – then, and let us love as befits kings, for many more years to come, until we die aged seventy (threescore). John Donne wrote this poem, ‘The Anniversary’, to his beloved. What do you get your beloved for your one-year anniversary? Alicia Ostriker, "The Anniversary" from Songs. I don’t think so. But that’s all right, Donne says: because when they are placed in their (separate) graves, their souls will rise up and re-join each other. Must leave at last in death these eyes and ears. It would be most obvious to think of Donne's marriage, which was deep if costly. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. is a hallmark of Donne’s poetry. John Donne - 1572-1631. Oft fed with true oaths, and with sweet salt tears; (All other thoughts being inmates) then shall prove. The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass. So, in summary – or rather, in paraphrase – Donne says, addressing his beloved: ‘Everything from kings to the sun in the sky is now one year older than when you and I first clapped eyes on each other. By John Donne. Written with a musical setting in mind, this metaphysical celebration of 'everlasting' fidelity sings with love and intellectual honesty. our love dictates every thought in our heads), will discover that, when bodies are buried in the grave, the souls rise up from the bodies – because our souls will rise from our corpses to find each other again.’, In the third and final stanza, Donne says: ‘Then, when our souls are united even in death, we will be thoroughly blessed – but then so will everyone. Here upon earth we’re Kings, and none but we. Copyright © 1969 by Alicia Ostriker. Interesting Literature is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.co.uk. Can be such Kings, nor of such subjects be; Let us love nobly, and live, and add again, Years and years unto years, till we attain. And the best way to offer a summary of a John Donne poem is, perhaps, to provide a rough paraphrase of what Donne is saying. Wonderful, unsurpassed. All Kings, and all their favourites, All glory of honours, beauties, wits, The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass, Is elder by a year now than it was. But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day. As well as being a fine love poem, ‘The Anniversary’ is also an example of metaphysical poetry, so it’s worth summarising the content of the poem. No one else can do treason to us, so we’re safe from harm; because you are my only subject, and I yours, only the other one can commit treason against us (and that’s hardly going to happen, right?). When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove. How … All other things to their destruction draw. And what skill there is in the final line! But we know what Donne means: this is a different kind of love from others, because it does not age or decay. He talks of years and years and years, even mentioning “threescore” – which does sound so terribly many, and far away, and unlikely – and finishes with just: “this is the second”. The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass. In the last analysis, ‘The Anniversary’ is one of Donne’s more accessible love poems, but it is perhaps not quite so straightforward as it first seems. There will be, to borrow from Alison Moyet, a ‘love resurrection’. This keeps the rhythm sprightly if not unpredictable, perhaps even neatly hinting at the slight uncertainties lurking beneath the poet’s confidence in his love (see below). Paradox is a key part of metaphysical poetry, and few metaphysical poets utilised clever paradox more effectively than John Donne. The Anniversary by John Donne is a dramatic lyric in which the poet celebrates his love which is now one year old. Most of us use anniversaries to celebrate. The Anniversary. But souls which are full of love and nothing else, as ours are (because all our other thoughts are ‘inmates’ or prisoners of our love for each other: i.e. To write threescore: this is the second of our reign. This poem, too, is a celebratory one, on the completion of the first year of a relationship. And this risks undermining the whole point of the poem. Each stanza has ten lines, and the poem is largely in the iambic metre, with the first, second, and seventh lines being tetrameter and the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, and tenth lines being pentameter. What’s the point of celebrating your anniversary if your love has ‘no … yesterday’? All kings, and all their favourites, All glory of honours, beauties, wits, The sun it self, which makes time, as they pass, Is elder by a year now than it was When thou and I first one another saw. The opposites of immortality and death are here juxtaposed and reconciled. All other things to their destruction draw, Only our love hath no decay; This no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday; Running it never runs from us away, But truly keeps his first, … But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day. As with ‘The Sun Rising’, the hubris and arrogance of young love are on full display. Ever since the day we met. As well as being a fine love poem, ‘The Anniversary’ is also an example of metaphysical poetry, so it’s worth summarising the content of the poem. I knew you were the one for me. Of course, much is lost in paraphrasing the beautiful paradoxes of John Donne’s poetry, but hopefully something – a greater understanding of the meaning of the poem – is gained, too. And the best way to offer a summary of a John Donne poem is, perhaps, to provide a rough paraphrase of what Donne is saying. All other things to their destruction draw. To write threescore: this is the second of our reign. Without you, I can’t even imagine. He was born in 1572 to Roman Catholic parents, when practicing that religion was illegal in England. infidelity), but also the idea that having more than one ‘king’ is surely a bad idea, at least in the same ‘kingdom’. ‘Who is as safe as we?’ is offered as a rhetorical question which invites the (unnecessary) answer from the beloved, ‘Nobody!’, but does the question not mask a potential uncertainty on Donne’s part? After all, we goes on to acknowledge that they have both false and true reasons to be fearful for their futures. Although we can catch its surface meaning easily enough, the possibility that Donne was also exploring the fragility of even the strongest love – those true and false fears – remains a very real one. Yet, is it bathetic, or anti-climactic? First, before we move to analysing the meaning of the poem, a few words about its form and metre. Poem of the week: The Anniversary by John Donne. Everything else, however, is in decline, moving towards its own death, whereas our love is different from them because it knows no decay. Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.
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