John Donne: Poems

Dying to Love: Romance and Faith in John Donne's "The Funeral"

The speaker in John Donne's "The Funeral" appears to have reasoned through the problem of death. He writes that "Whoever comes to shroud" him after he passes should not disturb "That subtle wreath of hair" which adorns his arm; he attests that the mystical bracelet, a prize given to him by a beloved mistress, will "keep [his] limbs... from dissolution" (lines 1, 3, 8). He bolsters the Romantic powers of his lover's keepsake with Christian imagery, consecrating the wreath with religious might and importance. Yet, the idealized comparison inspires obvious skepticism in any candid reading of the poem. After all, does the speaker really think a tangle of hair can function as an "outward soul" and keep him alive after death (5)? In the second stanza, this doubt even creeps into the narrator's logic as he tries to explain how the band works. Yet, the uncertain meaning and power of the bracelet only moves him to more religious bravado. The speaker's use of classic, religious diction to describe his faith in the wreath, intimates his extreme faith in Love, while also contradicting its supposed power.

In the first stanza, the speaker relies on the subtle use of religious...

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