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“This flea is you and I” John Donne and the Metaphysical Conceit. The Renaissance Seduction poem What is a conceit? What is a metaphysical conceit? A metaphysical conceit in Donne’s “The Flea”. Miniature of John Donne by Isaac Oliver, 1616. (The Royal Collection).

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“This flea is you and I” John Donne and the Metaphysical Conceit


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    1. “This flea is you and I” John Donne and the Metaphysical Conceit The Renaissance Seduction poem What is a conceit? What is a metaphysical conceit? A metaphysical conceit in Donne’s “The Flea” Miniature of John Donne by Isaac Oliver, 1616. (The Royal Collection)

    2. A lyric is any fairly short poem, consisting of the utterance by a single speaker, who expresses a state of mind • or a process of perception, thought, and feeling (Abrams) • The Renaissance Lyric: The Display of Wit • Intimacy of address • Intellectual complexity • Inventive playfulness • Self-reflexivity • An awareness, questioning, or inventiveness with literary conventions • Performative rather than autobiographical The Renaissance Seduction Poem – Impressing Other Men (and perhaps some Women)

    3. What does the poem seek to do? • To seduce actual women into bed? NO X • To delight and amuse reader • To show off the wit & learning of the poet • To engage inventively with poetic conventions 2. How does the poem do what it does? • Form Poetic • Diction Conventions • Design of the timennnnnnTone The Renaissance Seduction Poem – Impressing Other Men (and perhaps some Women)

    4. The Pastoral e.g. Marlowe, Ralegh, and Donne poem and answer set • Seduction/love poems (e.g. Donne and Marvell) Petrarchan conceit Carpe Diem lyric Epic/heroic poetry Essential Reading: Productions of Time M.H. Abrams A Glossary of Literary Terms Some Poetic Conventions Renaissance Poets Played with..

    5. What is a conceit? • A Glossary of Literary Terms – M.H. Abrams (Page 52) • Term adapted from the Italian “concetto” • Originally meant a concept or an image • Came to refer to figures of speech (similies or metaphors) which establish a striking parallel between two very dissimilar things or situations. An extended metaphor • Two kinds: 1. Petrarchan conceit 2. Metaphysical conceit

    6. Petrarchan conceit – a figure of speech used in love poems • FrancesoPetraca (1304-74) • A Petrarchan conceit (translated by Thomas Wyatt) I find no peace; and all my war is done; I fear and hope; I burn and freeze in ice. _______________________________________ • Shakespeare (1564–1616) A Parody of a Petrachan conceit Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red: If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

    7. Metaphysical Conceit, Abrams p. 53 • The Metaphysical poets in the early 17th century were so called because they wrote highly intellectual and philosophical poetry. These poets used all knowledge at their disposal to make comparisons – striking , witty and ingenious linkages between vehicle and tenor in their extended metaphors . • Tenoris the subject of the metaphor • Vehicleis the metaphorical term used • e.g. ‘The Flea’ – John Donne • This flea is you and I, and this • Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is • … we’re met • and cloistered in these living walls of jet

    8. Mark but this flea, and mark in this,    How little that which thou deniest me is;    Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;    Thou know’st that this cannot be said A sin, or shame, or loss of maidenhead,     Yet this enjoys before it woo,     And pampered swells with one blood made of two,     And this, alas, is more than we would do. Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, nay more than married are.    This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed and marriage temple is;    Though parents grudge, and you, we are met,    And cloistered in these living walls of jet.     Though use make you apt to kill me,     Let not to that, self-murder added be,     And sacrilege, three sins in killing three. Cruel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?    Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?    Yet thou triumph’st, and say'st that thou    Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now; ’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be:     Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me,     Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.