Summary of the Poem “The Canonization”
The term ‘canonization is a noun formed from the verb “to canonize” which means to enroll in the status of the saint. Such status is generally granted by the church after the person’s death in view of his service to the religion of God. The Christian religion looks upon love for a man or woman as profane, worldly, as contrasted with sacred, divine, heavenly. Thus if a person loves God madly or sacrifices his life for the sake of the Christian religion, he is enrolled as a saint in the list of saints. This list is called “the canon of saints”
In the present poem John Donne seems to have down a proposition. It is that if two lovers love each other to such an extent that they are lost in each other to all intents and purposes, they should be they are lost in each other to all intents and purposes, they should be looked upon as two saints of love. If they down their lives for love. They should be canonized as two saints of love. Dialectically Donne seems to argue that love is God. (By love he means Platonic love based on the unity of body and soul). Now, since love is God, two real, Platonic, lovers should be looked upon as love saints while they are living and canonized as saints of love after death. The statement is based on a hyperbole and is a paradox.
In ‘The Canonization’, John Donne conceives this paradox passionately and elaborates it to a forgone conclusion. The poem is begun abruptly in a tone of displeasure. In the first stanza, the poet gives us the impression that a friend of his continues sermonizing against getting lost in the profane love for his beloved wife. Now addressing the friend, the poet in a mod of displeasure tells him too stop sermonizing. For his love her is a passion too strong for him. It is and infirmity of the nature of a disease beyond his power to control and check. It so it is as useless to chide him for his love as for his approaching old age in which he may become bald and his limbs may get affected with palsy or gout. The friend is simply wasting his time and the poet’s in lecturing to him. It were better for friend if he paid his attention to his own welfare. He should therefore apply himself profitably, get him a course of study, or a job. He may also go to court and try to win the king’s favour. He has many options before him. So he should choose any of them and turn them to his profit. But he should let the love freely.
In the second stanza, the poet tells his friend that his love is harmless. It has injured none, as yet. The affairs of the world are not disturbed in any by his love. Everything goes on as usual.
In the third stanza the poet represents to his friend the nature of his love. He and his beloved love each other so passionately that each of them may be called both a taper and a fly. Thus each is burning the other to death, with the fire of love. Each of them is alive because of some mysterious effect of love.
In the fourth stanza the poet says that if they cannot “live by love” they can at least “dry by it” He means that if the people cannot consider them saints of life during their lives, they can look upon them as love saints after their death. If their love legend is not powerful enough to buy then a funeral service and tombs befitting saints and make history, it will be remembered by people as the love saints who were canonized for love.”
In the fifth stanza the poet says that coming generation will address them as such saints of love that looked upon the person of each other as hermitage . To them, love was peace. Each of them considered the other his own universe outside which there was nothing else.
EXPLANATIONS (line by line)
For Godsake hold your tongue…………………improve.
Ref. to the context and Explanation- These lines have been taken from John Donne’s poem entitled “The Canonization Here the speaker is John Donne, the poet. And the lines are addressed to a friend who has reproved Donne for indulging in the love of the flesh. In a mood of displeasure, the poet asks him in the name of God. To stop lecturing to him on fault in loving his beloved wife. He then prays him to let him love, considering passion to be an infirmity of his, a disease Donne then warns him that it is just as useless to chide him for his love as for his approaching old age. Which his head may be bald with five grew hairs on it his limbs affected with palsy, and his joints, troubled with gout. He may just as well uselessly chide him for a ruined fortune. If if unfortunately ever happens. The poet then implies that the friend is simply wasting his own time and his (i.e. Donne’s). He had better pay attention to his own welfare. To that effect, he should had better pay attention to his own welfare. To that effect, he should improve his social status with amassing wealth, and his mind, with a study of arts.
N.B. “Here the abruptness is mingled with a piquant discourtesy” The occasional inversion of normal speech order is part of a poetic technique which makes the speech rhythms essentially dramatic. A critic obsrves “The colloquial outburst of line the heavy stresses on “patsie” and “gout” the contemptuous alliteration of line all impose on the reader the desired emphasis tone and mood”.
Take a course………………………will let me love.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- This extract has been taken from John Donne’s Poem entitled “The Canonization. Here the speaker is John Donne, the poet, The lines are addressed to a friend who has found fault with Donne for indulging in the love of the flesh. In a mood of displeasure, the poet, in the foregoing lines, tells him to stop lecturing to him on his fault in loving beloved wife. He also advises him to pay attention to his own welfare. Speaking further towards the same advice, Donne tells his friend that he had better take a course of study to improve his mind. He may choose any one of the arts for his study. If he does not like the suggestion, he may get a place under Government or in private management. He may just as well go to court and turn a courtier. Then he may watch the King’s honourable behaviour, his acts of grace, and also the impressions of his face with a view to winning his favour. If he does not like to be a courtier, he may contemplate any other business to earn sovereigns, the gold coins stamped with the image of the King’s face. The poet further says that whatever occupation he chooses, he should turn it to advantage, so that he may not trouble him (i.e.the poet) with his sermon, and let him love freely.
N.B. The passage offers a great example of dramatic speech rhythms. A diamond dust of rhetoric has been strewed over the splutter of short phrases. They reflect the intensity of the poets feeling and also the sparkle of the poet’s wit which contrasts “the king’s real” with that of “his stamped face”
Alas alas who’s…………………..to the Plague Bill.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- This Passage has been from the poem entitled “The Canonization” composed byJohn Donne. The speaker here is the poet himself and the lines are addressed to a friend who has found fault with Donne for indulging in the love of the flesh. In a mood of displeasure. Donne here tells him that his loving his beloved wife has not harmed any one at all. His love has not infringed the right of any person whatever. His sighs have sunk no merchant ships. The streams of his tears have not flowed over the ground and estates of others. His cold sigh have never prolonged the winter and have thus never delayed the arrival of a coming spring. The fever of his passion for his beloved has never taken the life of a person. So no plague bill has ever displayed the name of a man who died of the poet’s love fever which keeps his veins hot. The poet implies that his love is innocent and strictly a private affair. It infringes no law of the Church or that of the State.
N.B. The poet has balanced merchant- ships against the storms of sighs, the streams of tears against the estates of others, and cold sighs against a coming spring etc. The effect is bitter irony which shows that love is an affair of one soul for another. So it violates no religious cannon.
- Soldier find wars……………………………….I do love.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- These lines occur in John Donne’s poem entitled ‘The Canonization’ Here the speaker is the poet himself. The lines are addressed to a friend who has reproved Donne for indulging in the love of the flesh. In a mood of displeasure, he tells the friend that the affairs of the world are not affected by his love at all. Soldiers still find wars. Lawyers still find the litigants, who carry their disputes to court. All these things take place in spite of the fact that he has been loving his beloved wife passionately and vice. It shows that his love does not affect the affairs of the state at all. The poet implies that his love affair is connected with his soul and the soul of his beloved. Being spiritual, and existing between two souls only, it does not interfere with the affairs of other individuals or that of the society or the State.
N.B. The lines reflect a tinge of satire on the statesmen who are war mongers, and on litigious men who carry even petty quarrels to court. Conversely, the poet indirectly seems to ask his friend whether wars and law suits will disappear, if he stops loving his beloved.
Call her one………………………the Eagle and the Dove.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- This extract has been taken from the poem entitled ‘The Canonization’ composed by John Donne. The passage is addressed to a friend, who has found fault with Donne for indulging in the love of the flesh. In a mood of displeasure, the poet here tells him that his love for his wife and vice has affected their souls much too deeply. So each of them has placed his or her life in the other. To illustrate his point, the poet says that each of them may he called both a taper and a fly at one and the same time. The taper may represent the flame of the other’s love burning in the heart of each. And the fly may stand for the desire for kissing the flame of love, and this desire is also present in each. Thus each of them is a taper as well as a fly simultaneously. And each of them is burnt by the other to death. But the fact is that each dies at his or her own cost, since the cause and agent of death is present within the boing of each. The cause and agent of death is love of the other. Further, the love relation of the poet to his sweetheart can be illustrated by the relation of the eagle to dove. The eagle is supposed to be the cruellest creature whereas the dove is looked upon as the meekest being. The poet implies that he as well as his beloved- each finds in himself or herself the cruelty of the eagle and meekness of the dove at the same time. As an eagle’ each preys upon the charming appearance of the other. And as a dove, each meekly submits to the predatoriness of the other. Thus each of them is glad to be killed by the other’s charms and love. Their death implies that they forget the world around them and are lost in the world of their love.
N.B.: The image of the taper and the fly and that of the eagle and the dove are very famous in Donne’s poetry. The passage reflects the peculiar blend of passion and thought, feeling and ratiocination. The each with which Donne proves that he and his sweetheart -each is the taper and the fly, the eagle and the dove, at one and the same time, is startling. It also shows how bright his poetic wit is.
The Phoenix riddle…………………… by this love.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- This passage has been taken from John Donne’s poem entitled ‘The Canonization. Here the speaker is the poet himself. The passage is addressed to a friend who has found fault with him for drowning himself in the love of the flesh. In the foregoing lines, the poet tells him that he and his beloved wife love each other as if each of them were the taper as well as the fly same time. Each preys upon the charms of the other, and each submits to the predatoriness of the other. So each of them may also be called the eagle and the dove at the same time. In order to define the nature of the unity of the two lovers, Donne here employs another conceit. He says that love has untied his being to that of his beloved. – the Phoenix According to a fabulous tradition, the Phoenix is a bird, the only one of its kind and species It is neither male nor female. Every five hundred years or so, it burns itself to death, but rises rejuvenated again, from own ashes. Now when the poet and his beloved are united together by love, they become the Phoenix their different sexes become a neither thing when their beings are united. They are then neither male nor female, but the neuter Phoenix. Further, when they burn themselves to death in the fire of spiritual love, their being is turned to ashes. But since they are the Phoenix by virtue of their spiritual unity, they rise rejuvenated from their own ashes again. The poet further says their love for each other has thus made them mysterious creatures. It has made each of them a blend of the taper and the fly, the eagle and the dove, and also the neuter Phoenix. Evidently they mysterious beings by virtue of their love.
N.B. – The passage is most memorable for its image of the Phoenix. The poet applies it as intellectual parallel to define the nature of his emotional concept. To our amazement, he proves that he and his beloved become the Phoenix, when they are united by their love heart and soul. The conceit is appropriate, although it is wonderful.
We can die by………………………….fit for verse.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- These lines occur in John Donne’s poem entitled ‘The Canonization’. Here the speaker is the poet himself, and the lines are addressed to a friend who has found fault with Donne for drowning himself in the love of his wife, heart and soul. In the foregoing lines he tells the friend that love for each other is much too refined, deep, and powerful. Here he says that if he and his beloved cannot get immortality through their love, they can at least get death through it. And if their love story is not powerful enough to buy them saintly funeral service and memorial tombs, it may be a most suitable theme for their poetry. The poet implies that they will continue loving each other till death even if they are not considered love-saints during their life. Their love story may not gather after their death thousands of people to strengthen their funeral procession and to look upon their dead bodies as those of love saints. It may not cause the people to build them memorial tombs. Yet he will make it the theme of his love-lyrics and Love songs, and show that it is a most suitable theme for them.
And If no piece of Chronicle…………..as half acre tombs.
Ref. to the Context and Explanation- This extract has been taken from John Donne’s poem entitled “The Canonization” Here the poet tells one of his friends that he will make his love immortal by making it a theme of his poems. He says that if his love his sweetheart cannot make a piece of history (like the love of Romeo and Juliet, or that of Antony and Cleopatra), it can become immortal by being treated of in his love-lyrics. So he will build for himself and his beloved wife spacious memorial monuments in his love songs and sonnets. By memorial monuments he means elaborated love- emotions in whose center he and she will stand as passionate lovers. A well-wrought urn containing the ashes of the greatest person may Commemorate him as suitably as the tombs standing in a half acre area. Even so his love lyrics, songs, and sonnets, may keep alive his love and Commemorate it as effectively as the tombs of saints. The poet implies. That lyrics, songs, and sonnets, may be little things in appearance. But they can make the poet’s love immortal more effectively than tombs and hearse of saints.
English Literature- Important links
- Development of English poetry since the age of Shakespeare
- Important Forms of poetry in English (Narrative, Lyrical, Sonnet etc.)
- Sonnet 29- When, in disgrace with fortune (William Shakespeare)
- SONNET 138- When my love swears (Analysis and Explanation)
- Critical review of Sonnet Writing of William Shakespeare
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