The Blossome by John Donne

The poem, The Blossome, by John Donne is one of those poems wherein the Petrarchan and Platonic conventions of love find an ironical treatment. According to the Petrarchan convention, the lover was devoted, faithful and constant, while the beloved was cruel, proud, scornful and unresponsive. She was often the wife of another, and so could not be approached as any contact with her would be illicit.

But still the lover continued to love and adore her. Thus, Petrarchan love was a one-sided affair. On the other hand, in Platonic love, there might be some response on the part of the beloved, but then it was purely spiritual love, a union of minds, but not of the bodies. Donne has no use of such one-sided or purely spiritual love. In his view, the beloved should be responsive and love can be real and lasting, only when it is a union both of mind and the body. Therefore, the poet is not satisfied with his unresponsive beloved and leaves for London where he will find another friend who would be glad to have both his body and his mind.

Thus, the theme of the poem is frankly Petrarchan, but it has been treated in an original and individual manner. Donne does not sigh Petrarchan woes, rather he treats Petrarchan convention of love ironically and exposes its hollowness. The imagery used is also Petrarchan.

Thus, ‘blossom’,  ‘flower’, ‘Forbidden and forbidding tree’, ‘heart’ ‘bud’, ‘bend’, ‘stiffness’, etc., were the common stock in trade of the Petrarchan poets, but Donne has used this Petrarchan imagery to bring out the scornful pride of his beloved and the fleeting nature of her youth and beauty. The poet’s and sarcasm reach a climax when he says that for a woman ‘a naked thinking heart’ is a kind of ghost, and that, ‘practice may make her know some other part’, but, ‘she doth not know a heart’, for she has none herself.

 

The Blossome Analysis

LITTLE think’st thou, poor flower,

Whom I’ve watch’d six or seven days,

And seen thy birth, and seen what every hour

Gave to thy growth, thee to this height to raise,

And now dost laugh and triumph on this bough,

Little think’st thou,

That it will freeze anon, and that I shall

To-morrow find thee fallen, or not at all.

John Donne, in the first stanza of the poem, The Blossome, addresses his beloved as poor flower, and says that he has been watching the growth of her youth and beauty for six or seven days, i.e. for some time past. He has seen the birth of her beauty, and how it continued to grow every day. Today proud of her youth and beauty she is triumphant like a beautiful flower, standing high on its stalk. She does not realize that her beauty is short-lived. Time  will soon destroy her beauty as a flower is killed by frost and snow. Soon the poet will find her youth and beauty all fallen to pieces, as the petals of a full-grown flower fall to the ground, and all its beauty is no more.

Little think’st thou, poor heart,

That labourest yet to nestle thee,

And think’st by hovering here to get a part

In a forbidden or forbidding tree,

And hopest her stiffness by long siege to bow,

Little think’st thou

That thou to-morrow, ere the sun doth wake,

Must with the sun and me a journey take.

The poet, through this stanza, addresses his heart and says that it is in vain for it to hover around his beloved, and  in this way to try to secure a resting place in her love and affection. It will never succeed in its efforts, for she is both ‘a forbidden’, and a , ‘forbidding tree’. She is a ‘forbidding tree’ because she is the wife of another, and  she is also a, ‘forbidding tree’, because she has rejected the advances of the poet. It is wrong to suppose that her stiffness, i.e. scorn and contempt can be overcome by long and patient love-making. Tomorrow, before she, his Sun, is awake, the poet will start on his journey and his heart will have to go with him.

But thou, which lovest to be

Subtle to plague thyself, wilt say,

Alas ! if you must go, what’s that to me?

Here lies my business, and here I will stay

You go to friends, whose love and means present

Various content

To your eyes, ears, and taste, and every part ;

If then your body go, what need your heart?

In this stanza, the poet’s heart, which devise subtle means of self-torture, replies to the poet. Even if the poet goes away, it does not make much difference to the poet’s heart. It is determined to stay behind and continue its love-making. The poet will have no need of the heart, for elsewhere he would find new friends who will provide him with full sensuous gratifications. His senses –eyes, ears and tongue and every part – would be fully satisfied. His body will go with him and he will not miss his heart. Heart is the seat of love and affection and there he will have no need of it.

Well then, stay here ; but know,

When thou hast stay’d and done thy most,

A naked thinking heart, that makes no show,

Is to a woman but a kind of ghost.

How shall she know my heart ; or having none,

Know thee for one?

Practice may make her know some other part ;

But take my word, she doth not know a heart.

The poet, therefore, permits his heart to stay behind and continue with his love-making. But when it has done its utmost to win her over, then it would realize that for a woman, ‘a naked thinking heart’ like a ghost, is an object of fear rather than of love and affection. In other words, a woman requires sexual gratification and merely spiritual love cannot gratify her. A woman can never recognize a heart, because she herself has none. By experience, she may recognize other parts, but she can never recognize a heart. Therefore, the poet assures the heart that she would never realize that it is his heart and, therefore, it will be useless for it to say behind.

Meet me in London, then,

Twenty days hence, and thou shalt see

Me fresher and more fat, by being with men,

Than if I had stay’d still with her and thee.

For God’s sake, if you can, be you so too ;

I will give you

There to another friend, whom we shall find

As glad to have my body as my mind.

In this final stanza of the poem, when the poet finds that the heart is obstinate and will remain behind, he asks it to meet him in London after twenty days. It will find that he has grown fresher and more fat than he would have been had he stayed there. In London, he would give his heart to such friends as would be glad to have his body as well as his mind. True love relationship is both of the body and the spirit. It is only such relationship that gives satisfaction.

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2 Comments

  1. Juhi Singh September 17, 2018
    • mm Lee-James Bovey October 2, 2018

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