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On The Ecstasy, by John Donne

In the opening, Donne is describing the scenery of a river or lakeside bank. He describes himself and another as pillows on a bed as they lie there.

The second stanza describes how their hands were held together and "cemented" with perspiration. He then describes beams coming out of their eyes and twisting like thread which holds their eyes together as with a single, double thread.

The third stanza Donne states that the loversí hands were all they had to make themselves into one, further, he says that the reflections in their eyes were their only way to propagate.

Stanza four uses a metaphor of armies to describe their souls. The two are equal armies, and Fate keeps victory uncertain, which is like the way the loversí souls are suspended.

Furthering the army metaphor, stanza five has the souls negotiating as their bodies lie like memorial statues. They remained that way the whole day and said nothing to each other.

The next stanza postulates whether any man can be so refined in love that he can understand the language of the soul, and furthermore, if that "good" love of the mind stood at a convenient distance.

Stanza seven relates that the two souls now speak as one; they may take a concoction and leave that place better off than when they arrived.

The eighth stanza states that their state of ecstasy "unperplexes" or simplifies things, and they can see that it was not sex that motivated them.

The ninth stanza furthers the idea that two lovers are one soul which is mixedóeach a part of the other.

The next uses a metaphor of a transplanted violet to show how two souls can be interanimated and how this "new" soul can repair the defects of each of the indivualsí souls.

The eleventh stanza again furthers the idea of two souls as one. It says that the lovers know what they are made of, and that no change can invade them.

The next stanza asks why the bodies are left out, and it says that although the soul is the intelligence, the bodies are the sphere which controls them, like the celestial spheres.

Stanza thirteen thanks the bodies for their service of bringing the soul to be and for yielding their senses. The bodies are not impurities that weaken, but rather alloys that strengthen us.

The next stanza relates the method of how the body and soul are related. Heavenís influence does not work on man like other things. It imprints the air so that peopleís souls may flow out from the body.

Stanza fifteen tells how our blood works to make "Spirits" that can help the body and soul together make us man.

Stanza sixteen postulates that loversí souls must give in to affections and wits that our bodies provide. If not, we are likened to a great prince in prison.

The next stanza says that we turn to our bodies so that weak men may look at them, but that loveís true mysteries are grown in the soul. The body is just the soulís "book."

The last stanza sums up the scene by speculating how they would be regarded by another lover in their "dialogue" of the combined souls. Donne says that this lover will see a small change when their bodies are gone.

The images in The Ecstasy focus on the relationship of the soul to the body. Donne begins with visual images of water, hands, perspiration and things that are physical in nature. He proposes that two loversí souls are formed into one and uses metaphors of alloys, celestial spheres and even a violet to make his point. Furthermore, Donne describes the process at work in the body by relating the mechanisms of blood and air. All of the images between lines 13 and 75 relate to the union of two souls, which creates a third soul that transcends the sum of the two.

Works Cited

John Donne. The Ecstasy. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Vol. 1. M. H. Abrams Gen. ed. New York, London: Norton. 2 vols. 1993.

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