John Donne's love poetry is a magnetic mix of the soul singing, intellectual rigor, and the lascivious prod. Seductions abound, but go hand in hand with metaphors of science, discovery, and conquest: "License my roving hands, and let them go, / Behind, before, above, between, below. / O my America! my new-found-land, / My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned ..." In "The Flea," the speaker even uses a revolting parasite to persuade his young woman to bed. Since the flea has bitten both of them already, he urges, why should they not commingle on a larger scale? But in one of Donne's trademark reversals, the argument fails when the woman squashes the offending insect.
"The Good Morrow" is a good deal more romantic, opening: "I wonder by my troth, what thou and I / Did, till we loved?" Lines such as "And now good morrow to our waking souls, / Which watch not one another out of fear; / For love all love of other sights controls, / And makes one little room an everywhere" have even made the poem a wedding standard. ("The Sun Rising" is another nuptial favorite.) As usual, however, the poet adds a tincture of imperfection to the vision: the persona's excuse (charming but dubious), "If ever any beauty I did see, / Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee." Though readers might concentrate on the love songs and sonnets, John Carey's edition of the Selected Poetry offers much more, including satires, epigrams, and Donne's brilliant holy sonnets. As rugged, brilliantly contorted, and fraught with feeling as his more diurnal poetry, they are also equally concerned with inconstancy--Donne was born a Catholic, but converted to Anglicanism in 1593. "Batter my heart, three-personed God" ends: "Take me to You, imprison me, for I / Except You' enthrall me, never shall be free, / Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me." [via]