In each of these poems “Death Be Not Proud”, “The Flea”, and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, John Donne inevitably exudes the culminating strength of his intellect to engage in uniting metaphysical concepts of nature, love, religion, and pleasure which by reality have often been at odds with each other. The poet’s style appears to exhibit a certain degree of innovativeness as Donne attempts to oscillate between sensual and sacred tones, snapping the rigid structure which poetics was normally identified for during his period. Through the aforementioned works, he can be recognized to possess authorship that deviates from the convention of drawing a single emotion type and instead, takes the reader unconsciously to a mixed yet remarkably hopeful state of sentiments toward death, sickness, and farewell.
By “Death Be Not Proud”, Donne’s poetic approach is characterized either by a casual sarcasm or confidence which essentially signifies that the poet himself has transcended all anxieties about death. The firm serenity of the sound his voice may be imagined to create radiates all throughout the composition as he seeks to affirm resolve that “though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so”. This Donne elucidates in claiming that death is nothing more than “Rest and Sleep” from which he proceeds to justify that rather than perceiving death in a confined dimension of fright, “Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow” since if it were to be likened to sleep, then its pride is automatically snatched away by an extended metaphor to “poppy or charms” which can be expected to carry out the same task of pleasantly tossing anyone to the command of rest. Moreover, Donne achieves triumph in not only personifying death in such manner as to miff it with his positive insights, he even dares to challenge the personification by treating it as “slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men”. As a “short sleep”, death must not be proud for the author believes that the human’s transition from physical to the spiritual world is beyond its control.
With “The Flea”, Donne makes use of an insect whose identity as a bloodsucker is rendered analogous to both a disease and the corresponding urge to cure it, or more explicitly, to satisfy one’s obsessed craving. As the poet develops the idea behind the flea from admitting “It suckd me first, and now sucks thee” then “Yet this enjoys before it woo” up to “Where we almost, yea, more than married are”, he speaks of a real experience which reflects a choice, whether to give in to “the flea” and its consequence. The poem assumes a mature perspective of life in which Donne places himself in a character of youthful passion initially yet learns in the process then realizes how significant accountability is in a sensual relationship that is made profound by the commitment and every piece of struggle with it. “The Flea” brings itself to an extent of acknowledging that physical or earthly love, as later governed by “marriage” or union of “three lives in one flea”, is considered sacred where “three” includes God or the presence of a divine entity that seemingly blesses the couple who now share the same blood.
Through “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, still the poet remains attached to the principle known regarding marriage and how unnecessary sadness or lamentation is as applied to loss, separation, and death. Donne sheds this light and encouragement in “No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; ‘Twere profanation of our joys”. It can be felt that he is purely optimistic in this speech that he fervently addresses the need to focus on “love” which he further modifies as “so much refined”. At this stage, he wants his wife, to whom the valediction is addressed, to discern that their love must dissolve the consuming thought of parting or “absence” – “cause it doth remove / The thing which elemented it”. For Donne, such pondering about loss or absence ought not to get in the way of two hearts pledged to love for eternity otherwise, this would indicate prevarication that only tends to weary affectionate foundations. Thus, the poet concludes in a persuasive tone, stating “Thy firmness makes my circle just / And makes me end where I began.”