John Donne uses conceit in his poetry so wisely, as deep and careful study of Donne’s poetry shows that Donne’s use of conceits is unique and superb. Though some other very prominent poets of English Literature have made a very good use of conceits yet Donne’s implementation of conceits excels from all the other poets of using this genre. A definition of a conceit shows that a simile or comparison between two dissimilar things is a conceit.
The conceits may be brief or extended or elaborated one. Conceits are unusual and fantastic similes and comparisons which indicate similarity between dissimilar objects, but conceits emphasis the strong element of unlikeness and the violence or strain used in bringing together dissimilar objects. It can be well illustrated by an example that comparing the cheeks of the beloved to a rose is an image, while comparing the cheeks to a rose because. they have lost their colour and are bleeding from thorns, is a conceit.
It is one of the best traits of John Donne art of writing that he often makes use of such kind comparison makes use of such kind comparisons e.g. in his famous love poem of ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’, . he compares the lovers to the two legs of a compasses. In his another poem, “The Flea”, there is also a very sharp conceit: when he turns the flea as a marriage bed and marriage temple – because it has sucked the blood of his beloved. As it is well acknowledged that Donne always uses very learned conceits, which proves the fact that Donne is a man of learning and he has the knowledge of a wide range of subjects such as science, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and exploration. After studying his poetry, one finds a touch of intellectuality and literary learning.
It can be termed as one of his great characteristics of his poetry that he always used far-fetched images against Elizabethan conventions boldly and openly; as “A Valediction of Weeping” employs images from a variety of sources. The lover’s tears are like precious coins because they bear the stamp of the beloved, the tears are “pregnant of thee”, it is really a complex image. On the next stage, he compares the tears of the beloved to the moon which shows the surprising and complex images.
Now, there is no doubt in saying that Donne’s love poems and religious poems consist of deep conceits. How deep this conceit is in the poem “Batter my Heart”, where he compares himself to a usurped town. At another place, he wants God to “ravish” him so that he may be “chaste”. In the poem of, “The Ecstasy”, we see that the lover’s souls are compared to two equal armies confronting and negotiating with each other.
Donne uses every conceit at the very right place where it is required and there is not any conceit which is out of place or irrelevant. Some critics have strongly criticised this point that Donne’s conceits are quite far-fetched and so they are quite out of place. But it is a fact that his images cannot be condemned for being far-fetched because they stimulate one to think and ponder. They give the readers an awareness of the new angles from which an experience can be viewed.
Donne is always of the view that there would not be any woman in the world both beautiful and loyal or true. This very point of view, he elaborates in the poem “Go and Catch a Falling Star”. But it is worthy to note here that Donne’s conceits are not pieces of decoration but they are functional and serve to illustrate and persuade the others: In “The Sun Rising”, the poet and his beloved symbolize the whole world and all its rulers. In simple words, it means to say that the sun which is shining on their small room will be warming the whole world. Though it is a far-fetched conceit yet we cannot deny its logicality. He illustrates it by the means of supremacy of love.
Poets use the conceits as the weapons to show their skill of learning and knowledge because these are always hidden in the inner thoughts of the poet which he wants to elaborate or to make the readers understand. As, far as the matter of Donne’s conceits is concerned, these are admired for their novelty and realism. Their intellectual tone is matchless and Donne is the only one who stands single in this field. His conceits are also charming and eye-catching. In “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, we see that the separation between husband and wife is not troublesome for Donne because according to him it is like the movement of one leg of the compass while the other leg is fixed at the center. Here, he argues that the rotating side of the compass must return to the base and join the other side ultimately, as such there is no need to mourn.
There is no doubt in saying that to some extent John Donne conceits or images are full of complexity and obscurity because these bring together the opposites of life i.e., body and soul, earth and heaven, the bed of lovers and the universe, and life and death. The readers of the new generation and the people of the present age feel a difficulty in understanding these medieval images and the outclass fertility of Donne’s mind. Oftenly the readers are confused and bewildered due to his smooth movement of the mind. There are required a shrewd, deep and profound learning, knowledge and intellectuality to understand the hidden and deep meanings of Donne’s poetry.
There is no exaggeration in saying that a person of profound understanding may judge Donne’s clever conceits but a student or reader of ordinary caliber and average capability cannot follow or understand Donne’s far-fetched objects and concepts which are juxtaposed in conceits. In brief, we can say that there is no doubt that Donne’s imagery of conceits proves to be a hurdle in the way of the understanding of the common readers and the average students but one cannot deny the importance, integrity; significance, fame and popularity of his conceits, used in his poetry.