John Donne “The Funeral”, “The Blossom”

“The Funeral” starts with the poet, true to the title, envisaging his own funeral and imploring whoever is going to take care of his body not to remove the bracelet of woman’s hair tied around his arm. It’s his outward soul which is going to preserve his body, while his actual soul is gone to meet its maker. How is it possible? Well, if the threads of his nervous system can hold his body together, so can the woman’s hair, which grew out of a better head and brain than his. Now the speaker asks to be buried with them, because otherwise they would reach the status of relics, since he is love’s martyr. (It’s not the first time when Donne is playing somewhat cheekily with his Catholic past.) He says somewhat mysteriously that it was humility to ascribe to this hair the power of doing everything soul can do, but I am not sure whose humility? Does he mean his own humility, because he gives to this external substitute of soul the same or even greater power than to his actual soul? Anyway, if he was humble in this instant, he is also defiant now: if the hair’s donor would not save him (other manuscripts read “have”), he is now going to bury a part of her.

“The Blossom” is similarly to the previous poem a text about the woman who would not succumb to the poet’s advances. The speaker starts by addressing tenderly a spring blossom, which does not realize, after its seven or eight days in the world that it is going to be nipped in the bud by spring frost. Similarly, his poor heart, still hoping to win the woman, does not realize that the poet has to go on a journey and it has to go with him. The heart, which is rather too clever for its own good, says “go on, I will stay behind. You are going to meet your friends, who are going to please your eyes and ears etc., but my business is here.” Sure, the poet answers, you may stay behind, but a naked heart is useless to a woman, especially a heartless one – having no heart of her own she is not going to notice you. She may recognize other body parts from experience (nudge nudge) but she won’t recognize a heart.  Fine then, see you in twenty days n London. I will be then fatter and fresher and I hope you will be such too. I can then give you to some other friend, who will have both my body and my heart. The poet is not easy to follow and it takes a moment to realize that “thou” is the heart and “she” is the cold woman. It also took me some time to realize which parts are spoken by the poet and which by the heart. But it was worth the effort.

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