The Metaphysical Conceit in Donne's Poems

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The Metaphysical Conceit Donne’s Poems “The Flea” and “A Valediction” are poems by John Donne that were written in the 17th Century. These poems incorporate the fundamental of something called a metaphysical conceit. Interesting though, both poems use the metaphysical conceit to tell a story about two very opposite situation between two “partners”. “The Flea’s” metaphysical conceit is stretched along a lustful, passionate, relationship between two individuals. “A Valediction’s” metaphysical conceit follows Donne asking his wife to be calm about his leaving rather than grieving about it. The poet cleverly hides the true meaning of the poem encouraging his readers to conduct closer readings and find the implicit details for themselves. We see in both these poems how the metaphysical conceit is played out to tell two different stories and represent two very different situations between two partners, whether they be husband and wife, or man and mistress. In order to really break down the meaning of this poem, we must first understand the idea of a “metaphysical conceit”. This term is an intricate and intellectual device used very often by 17th Century poets like John Donne. According to it “sets up an analogy between one entity’s spiritual qualities and an object in the physical world and sometimes controls the whole structure of the poem.” In the context of “The Flea”, this spiritual entity is love, lust, and sex, and the “object” in the physical world
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