John Donne: Poems

The Origin of Love: Donne's Theogony

ÃÂÂLoveÃÂÂs DeityÃÂ? is an anti-lyric poem; rather than lament loveÃÂÂs inconstancy or celebrate loveÃÂÂs union, Donne questions the nature of love itself. Donne presents the poem as a theogony, an account of the origin of the god of love. For Donne, Love is a pagan god, operating in a beautifully imagined pre-lapsarian world in which all love is correspondent. However, the god of love, a tyrant, comes to abuse his powers, leading to unrequited and unequal love as the fall of man. But there is no retrograde action; men cannot return to the mythic garden of correspondent love. Disparity, Donne writes, is loveÃÂÂs ÃÂÂdestiny,ÃÂ? and so in the course of four stanzas, the poem expands from a theogony, an account of the creation of a god, to a theodicy, an attempt to justify the ways of god to men (5).

The opening lines of ÃÂÂLoveÃÂÂs DeityÃÂ? are startling. ÃÂÂI long to talk with some old loverÃÂÂs ghost, / Who died before the god of love was born,ÃÂ? the speaker intimates (1-2). We are thrown into a strange and paradoxical world: Can love exist before the god of love exists; did lovers and beloveds predate the god of love? Donne argues that this is the case. Not only does love exist before the birth of the god, but it exists in an...

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