1. Donne’s two major modes are religious spiritualism and erotic amorousness. How does he combine those two modes in some of his poems? In which poems does he not combine them?
2. How does Donne distinguish between physical and spiritual love? Which does he prefer? (Think especially about “The Flea” and “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning.”)
3. Compare and contrast two of Donne’s most famous religious poems, the tenth and fourteenth Divine Meditations. How are they alike? How are they different? In what ways does Donne’s mode of address to Death and God differ from what you might expect?
4. One of the main characteristics of metaphysical poetry is its reliance on bizarre and unexpected imagery and symbolism. What are some of Donne’s strangest or most surprising images and symbols? How does Donne use symbolism to advance his themes?
5. Compare and contrast two of Donne’s most famous metaphysical love poems, “The Canonization” and “The Sun Rising.” How are they alike? How are they different? Does Donne’s urbane, sophisticated treatment of love diminish the romantic passion in his poems?
6. Donne’s use of meter is frequently surprising; he will often apply a regular ABAB rhyme scheme to lines of wildly erratic tempo. What are some of the poems in which he uses this technique? What effect does it have on the poems, either aesthetically or thematically, or both?
7. Donne often uses humor in his poems: “The Flea” is an elaborate joke, “The Canonization” and “A Valediction” satirize Petrarchan love poems, and even a more serious poem, such as the “Hymn to God my God,” makes extensive use of a pun. What roles do wordplay and humor perform in Donne’s poems?
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