Every piece of literature throughout the ages relates to the individual, faith, and society at the time. In the 17th century John Donne was a well known poet that had a big influence on the society then and now. His two works “Song” and “The Indifferent” are both good examples of how much influence these things have on the world itself.
The poem “Song” by Donne is unique in both its form and the meaning. The nature of the individual is interesting in this poem because the narrator seems to be it their own imagination thinking about having a wife and child bearing. It seems as though the narrator is single looking for someone special to be with but is not optimistic that they will find one. The reader gets this idea from the final line in the poem saying, “Though she were true when you met her, / And last till you write your letter, yet she/ will be/ False ere I come, to two, or three.”(Donne, p. 605). It seems as though the nature of the individual is that they are pessimistic.
In the poem “The Indifferent” also by Donne it seems to have what was normal for format at the time. As the title says it seems as though throughout the poem the individual is indifferent in nature. As though they too are looking for love like the narrator in “Song” however, they are trying to make it seem as though they do not care. Donne does this in the beginning starting off by saying that the narrator could love pretty much anyone. However, because he seems to not care he does not put any effort into love. This is conveyed by saying, “Poor heretics in love there be,/ Which think to ‘stablish dangerous constancy.” (Donne, 1633, p. 607). This part makes the reader think that the narrator feels bad for the people that do fall in love because of the dangers of doing so.
Both of these poems have similar themes which are finding love. What is interesting about the two is that they are both written by the same author yet they portray two different perspectives on finding love. Donne in “Song” seems like he is happy to find love and keep looking; whereas in “Indifferent” Donne seems as though he does not care if he finds love or who he finds it with. This nature seems to reflect in what the society thinks about the act of finding love. In one way it is important but in the other it does not really matter how one finds that special someone and or if the person they marry is really that special to them. It seems that as long as they find someone to marry that is all that matters.
Because of this fact it seems that Donne is attempting to express how society views the process of finding a mate. He makes that narrator of each poem relate to the society in such a way that they display what is important in the society. For example in “Song” where he says, “Get with child a mandrake root,”(Donne, p. 604). This part makes it clear that one of the main reasons why it is important to get married is to have child (mandrake root being thought to help women get pregnant).
Love is the biggest focus in both of these pieces and Donne does not seem to incorporate faith in either very much. The only part that seems to reflect a small part of faith in relation to the individual and society is in “Song”. He strings in a small about of faith and folk tale saying, “Or who cleft the Devil’s foot, / Teach me to hear mermaids singing,/ Or to keep off envy’s stinging,” (Donne, p. 604). In this part it seems that the individual does not relation much to faith except for their fear in what will happen after they die.
The message in these two poems seems to reflect the relationship between the individual, faith and society is interesting because it seems as though the requirement of having to get married rules the individual. It seems as though this requirement is the only thing that matters to the individual including putting faith on the back burner. However, it seems that aside from finding a mate faith is the second most important thing but it is low on the priority list until the “soul mate” is found.
Both poems “Song” and “Indifferent” by John Donne are interesting pieces that show how the people during the 17th century relate to their society and faith. Because of how he chose to display this characteristic of the time period people today are able to fully understand the importance of finding someone to marry and continue on the family line.
Donne, J. (). 1633. In S. Greenblatt, & M. H. Abrams (Eds.), The Norton Anthology English Literature (8th ed., pp. 604-605). London: Norton & Company.
Donne, J. (1633). The Indifferent. In S. Greenblatt, & M. H. Abrams (Eds.), The Noron Anthology English Literature (8th ed., pp. 607-). London: Norton & Company.
.al-Khamisi, F. (2011). Imagery in Donne's Songs and Sonnets. Language In India, 11(7), 343-769.
Machacek, G. (1995). Donne's The Indifferent. Explicator, 53(4), 192.