Donne’s vision of love

A HEART-wrenching video clip on the chemical attack in Syria made its rounds recently with graphical images of children and adults in woeful distress from convulsions after the attack.

What comes to our mind when you come across such atrocities is how any human being, individually or collectively, privately or politically, could bring such harm to other human beings.

What kind of animals have we become? That brings us to the next question, are humans by nature savage?

Humans are naturally born savage but supposed to have become civilised by following the rules and laws of society.

Humans are known as primates. As primates, we are animals. Animals are known to be savage and use their natural instincts to survive.

Do we console ourselves then that it is acceptable to want to bring harm and suffering to others?

Humans are after all simple animals that are living in a more complex version of nature.

For example if there were no laws, society would became very corrupted and most humans would use their natural animal instincts to survive like the cave men did.

The holocaust is an example in history where humans were known to become savages.

In this dim background, would John Donne (1572-1631) and his quest for love be a misfit or would it be therapeutic?

I opt to think that the latter is true and critically needed. "Love" as proposed by Donne is a supreme experience. Perhaps this is what the world is lacking; love, care and compassion for their fellow beings.

As a brief background, Donne was an English poet and cleric in the Church of England. He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.

Donne is credited with the honour of being the poet who broke traditions prevalent at his time but his themes remain traditional, with renewed attitude towards love and religion.

The term metaphysical poets was coined by the critic Samuel Johnson to describe a loose group of 17th-century English poets whose work was characterised by the inventive use of conceits, and by a greater emphasis on the spoken rather than lyrical quality of their verse.

Some of the love poems by Donne are considered harsh and cynical and yet others are ecstatic and celebrate love as supreme.

Among his famous works The Good-Morrow stands out as Donne's best known poem.

Love here is seen as intense and absolute that isolates the lovers from reality, giving them an experience which is unparalleled.

My favourite is the last stanza from the poem:

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

These lines assess the harmonious union of the lover which goes beyond any boundary and is definitely immortal.

For many of us, the mornings are hard and a Monday morning could be daunting and we get by with a slush of coffee before we scoot off for our routine.

This love poem is about the beauty of the morning after a frolicking night.

The title The Good-Morrow more or less sums it all. After the sweetness of the night as it was, the writer looks at it as a spiritual union where one completes the other. 

You must recall those hammer-head phones like Motorola and Nokia which could have doubled up as weapons, when mobile phones marched into our lives decades ago.

Later, we will definitely reminisce with pleasure the era of smart phones that forayed into our lives keeping us ecstatic with infinite number of applications to keep us happily "darned" and "dammed".

Try recalling the days of Angry Birds and very recently Pokemon Go game which kept us transfixed beyond time and place.

Well, in Donne's era there was none of these "smart" excitements and yet you can sense the bursting wisdom of wonder and newness emanating from the spree with his lover.

Coming back to the perpetrators who inflict pain and sorrow on others, it is time for a Donne to keep them hearty with love.

This poem keeps very much to John Keats' definition of a poem that it (the poem) should not mean, it should just be!

The writer believes that the Malaysian education system will reach greater heights with a strong antidote to revolutionise just about everything. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com