WzDD's HSC Info: 2Unit Related English: John Donne
When by thy scorne, O murdresse, I am dead,
And that thou thinkst thee free
From all solicitation from mee,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, fain'd vestall, in worse armes shall see;
Then thy sicke taper will begin to winke,
And he,whose thou art then, being tyr'd before,
Will, if thou stirre, or pinch to wake him, thinke
Thou call'st for more,
And in false sleepe will from thee shrinke,
And then poore Aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath'd in a cold quicksilver swear wilt lye
A veryer ghost than I;
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I'had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threatenings rest still innocent.
Solicitation - pleading
Taper - candle
Quicksilver - mercury
Aspen - a pale tree
This poem explores the emotions of a jilted lover, rejected for someone who, in the eyes of the
writer, is obviously inferior. For convenience, I will refer to the "I" of the poem as "he" and the
subject as "she".
Although many poems have been written about rejection, most of them end with the lover pleading
with the loved to accept him again. However, in this poem, that idea has been turned upside down -
by the end he is not pleading to be welcomed back into the arms of his beloved, but is
in fact gloating - she made a bad decision, and now she has to live with it!
- Direct address: When by thy scorne...
- No conceits used.
Although this is a lack of a device rather than an actual device, it is important
to note that this poem is different to a majority of Donne's poetry in that it uses none
of the extended metaphors known as conceits. Metaphors are used (Aspen wretch
, etc), but they never extend beyond one line of the poem.
Movement Within the Poem
- Over the course of the poem the tension is built up steadily, but there is a dramatic change
in the last four lines, where the tension is held but the poem becomes reflective rather than
vituperative[aggressive and cursing].
Imagery / References to Donne's learning
- Religious imagery:
fain'd vestall - ie, feigned virginity
- Cold quicksilver sweat - the reference to quicksilver (another name for
mercury) implies coldness, creates the image of moonlight shining silver on sweat-bathed
skin, and (unverified) was once thought a cure for veneral disease.
- Apsen wretch - "Aspen" implies coldness and frigidity.
- My ghost - realise that this ghost does not necessarily need to be "real" -
it could quite possibly be the woman's conscience which has come to haunt her. His triumph
at the end is that the woman will never know.
- Highly melodramatic: In the first line, he is killed by her scorn, for example.
- He clearly demonstrates the inadequacy of her new lover, both sexually and emotionally:
Will... think thou call'st for more, and in false sleepe will from thee shrinke..."
: Not only is the lover too tired for any more, but he is unwilling to listen to her
- The traditional "jilted lover" poem is turned on its head here: I'had rather thou
shouldst painfully repent.... Or is it? The irony is that the the male, if his love
really WAS spent, would not waste time cursing his ex-lover and her new boyfriend.
- A veryer ghost than I - ie, she will finally understand how he feels, to be
rejected in such a way.
- Note also that there is only one stanza. Unlike other Donne poems, which mix emotion with
rational thought, this is a rush of almost pure emotion.
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