Love Poem Broken Heart BiographySource(Google.com.pk)
Poetry Analysis: the Broken Heart, by John Donne
Was This Poem Used to Elicit Sympathy from the Beloved that Denied Him Love?
Julie Renee Phelan
Julie Renee Phelan, Yahoo Contributor Network
Jan 4, 2010
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The poet, John Donne wrote "The Broken Heart." The poem declares that any man who claims to have loved for an hour is insane. The man is insane, not because love "decays," but because love "devours." The poet uses an analogy of the plague and ignited gun powder to love. Similar to the plague and gun powder, love is violent and swift.
This poem has four regular stanzas which utilize iambic meter. Each stanza is eight lines long. Lines one, two, three, five and six are in iambic tetrameter, while lines four, seven, and eight are in iambic pentameter. The line-stress pattern is 44454455 for each stanza. Each stanza follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCCDD. This poem has variations to the iambic meter and two significant caesuras which highlight significant parts.
The first stanza begins with the poet's claim, "He is starke mad, who ever sayes (1), that he hath beene in love an houre" (2). The poet explains, "Yet not that love so soone decayes (3), But that it can tenne in lesse space devour" (4). Love can "tenne in lesse space devour" means it can cross from dexter to sinister in less space to devour (4). The word "space" is used because "tenne" is an engraving on a fixed object of space (4). "Tenne" is represented by a diagonal line from dexter to sinister (4). Dexter is to the right, and sinister is to the left of an object or body. In meaning dexter is the opposite of sinister. The poet states that love may cross from dexter to sinister in less than an hour and devour.
The poet asks, "Who will beleeve mee, if I sweare (5)/That I have had the plague a yeare? The poet references the Black Plague which is estimated to have killed thirty to sixty percent of Europeans. The plague reduced the world's population by two hundred million. The plague killed persons infected within four to seven days. When the poet asks if any person would believe him if he swore that he had the plague for a year becomes a rhetorical question. No person would believe the poet had the plague for a year. Next, the poet asks, "Who would not laugh at mee, if I should say (7), I saw a flaske of powder burne a day?" (8) That is another rhetorical question. No person would believe the poet saw a flaske of gun powder burn for a day. Those questions are curiously close to insanity, but both beg the point of insanity.
The second stanza reads, "Ah, what a trifle is a heart (9), if once into loves hands it come!" (10) "Trifle" refers to the heart as a small article of little intrinsic value regarding feelings other than love (9). The reference to love being in the palm of hands means love is all encompassing for it fills the palm of the hand. "All other griefes allow a part (11)/ To other griefes, and aske themselves but some" (12). Other grief take only part, but love encompasses the whole of the heart.
The poet explains, "They come to us, but as Love draws (13), hee swallows us, and never chawes" (14). Feelings of grief come in pieces to the heart, but love draws in the whole heart. Love swallows the heart wholly, and never chews it into bites or parts as do feelings of grief. The poet concludes, "By him, as by chain'd shot, whole rankes doe dye (15), he is the tyran Pike, our hearts the Frye" (16). A "chain'd shot" is a shot consisting of two balls or half balls united by a short chain (15). A "chain'd shot" strikes down "whole rankes" with one firing (15). The reference to "whole rankes" refers to a line of soldiers drawn up abreast for service as part of a formation. The poet uses the plural form so "whole rankes" means a series of those lines of soldiers, a battalion or army. By love, as by a hot of two balls united by a short chain, whole battalions do die. Love is the "tyran Pike" (16). Love is the sovereign power or absolute ruler similar to a "Pike," a predatory freshwater fish, inhabiting Eurasia and having a pointed snout with large teeth (16). "Our hearts the Frye" (16), the Frye is a small fish, prey of the voracious Pike. Love is a predator to consume our hearts which is loves prey.
The third stanza is setting up evidence with a question, "It 'twere not so, what did become (17)/ Of my heart, when I first saw thee?" (18) Unquestionably, the poet is claiming that he lost his heart when he saw his beloved. "I brought a heart into the roome (19), but from the roome, I carried none with mee" (20). When the poet went into the room he had his heart, but when he left, he had none.
The poet provides proof, "If it had gone to thee, I know (21)/ Mine would have taugth thine heart to show (22)/ More pitty unto mee" (23). If the poet's heart had gone to his beloved, his heart would have taught his beloved's heart to show more pity to poet. Please note: There is a caesura in the middle of line twenty three, which is a pause. In this case, the pause is purposely placed to add emphasis on the remaining statement, "but Love, alas (23), at one first blow did shiver it as glasse" (24). The poet claims it was love at first sight, but the beloved denied the love, and dealt a blow which broke his heart like glass.
The third and final stanza begins with recapitulation, "Yet nothing can to nothing fall," nothing is indestructible (25). All things can be destroyed. "Nor any place be empty quite," no place is an absolute vacuum (26). Nothing can be absolutely empty. "Therefore I thinke my breast hath all (27)/ Those peeces still, though they be not unite" (28). The poet, therefore, believes his heart has all those pieces of glass still, but the pieces are not united or together as one.
The final stanza concludes with a visual image, "And now as broken glasses show (29)/ A hundred lesser faces" (30). And now as broken mirrors show a hundred pieces of my heart without unity. The inference is one hundred pieces of the poet's heart is of lesser value than one heart. Please note: There is a caesura in the middle of line thirty, which is a pause. The pause is significant because it readies the reader for the final line of the poem. "So my ragges of heart can like, wish, and adore (31), but after one such love, can love no more" (32). So the pieces of my heart may like wish and adore, but after my heart was shattered by your love, my heart can love no more. The poet uses the word "ragges" so the reader remembers that the pieces are lesser value than the whole heart. The poet is only left with rags so he can only like, wish and adore, but love no more because he no longer has a whole heart.
The "Broken heart" is an example of the poet's metaphysical style, but more importantly his usage of imagery with the burning powder-flask, the fish, Pike and Frye, room and shattered mirror. The poet emphasizes the significance of the shattered heart through exaggerations. The exaggerations include the plague for a year, and flaske of powder burne a day. The poet compares the significance of a shattered heart to the Pike and Frye. The poet compares the feeling of his heart to an empty room, and then he compares his shattered heart to a broken mirror. This reader is inclined toward curiosity of the intended reader. Was this poem used to elicit sympathy from the beloved that denied him love?
Hunt, Clay. Donne's Poetry: Essays in Literary Analysis. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1954.
Shawcross, John T., comp. The Complete Poetry of John Donne. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967.
The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000.
Published by Julie Renee Phelan
I have a BS in Accounting, Economics, and Mathematics. I have a BA in French and English. I have a MA in Economics. I am currently working on my MA in English Literature at California State University at Lon... View profile
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