John Donne: Poems

John Donne: Poems


Father Returing

The main message of the poem is that of individual alienation in modern society, as illustrated in the father of the title who appears as a tired, poor, shabby old man. In this way the poem taps into a common theme of modern literature the world over. Much of the poem is taken up with a visual description of this man, all of which emphasises his loneliness and world-weariness. We first see him among other commuters on the train journey home where he sits with his wretched belongings, alone in a crowd. In a particularly striking image, he is described as 'getting off the train/Like a word dropped from a long  sentence’. This gives a sense of his irrelevance in this society, which like the train goes on unheedingly without him. Yet, although so downtrodden and so easily ignored, there is a hint of an indomitable spirit within him when it is said that in spite of his muddied ‘chappals’, or sandals, he still ‘hurries onward’.

Significantly, it is not only the outside world but also his own home which appears as a wholly unsympathetic environment; he is given ‘stale’ things to eat, and his ‘sullen’ children seem to largely ignore him. Devoid even of family companionship, it is little surprise that he retreats ‘to contemplate/Man’s estrangement from a man-made world’. This is the one time that the poem directly states its central message. The depiction of this man’s estrangement not only from society at large but also from his own family lends the piece a double piquancy.

The poem, then, conveys an overwhelming sense of the sordidness and bleakness of one man’s life. There seems to be little route of escape for this unfortunate character – except, it seems, in the inner recesses of his own mind where he can dream himself away from the present time, into the refuge of the far past or the distant future, with his ancestors and his grandchildren. The poem thus plays up the contrast between this man’s frail and shabby exterior and the rich, teeming inner life that still pulses within him. Despite all external setbacks, it seems as though the mind can never be quite conquered. In fact, the final image of the poem is that of conquerors; the man dreams of the hordes of the ancient invaders of India, coming down through the Khyber Pass. This rich, romantic, inner life is what continues to sustain him through his uninspiring day-to-day existence in the modern world.



Poem 2 

 “The Lost Woman,”

 The poem connotes the fact that the daughter is really the ‘lost woman,’ although this isn’t distinguished until the end. The poet also creates an imagery of the mother’s ‘supposed’ life. Firstly, the language used in the beginning of the poem is quite typical, however as the speaker starts to create her own version of her mother, the language changes slightly. The speaker creates and image of how her mother met her husband in war (15-18). She also portrays her mother as something better than she thought she was, they had a tenuous mother-daughter relationship hence the fictitious fantasies. All the imagery is visceral.

The poet uses half rhymes to give a bit of a sinister and unsettling effect, the fact that the whole poem is arranged in six stanzas each with six lines also gives this effect. The rhyme scheme used consists of  half rhymes such as ‘pain, lane’ (2,4) and ‘acquired, desired’(20,22) delineates a sonic pattern as they are each two lines apart, this consists in most stanzas. The poet uses words like ‘shocking white’ to illustrate not only the fact that the entire thing was scandalous, but that the ambulance itself brought out a disturbing aroma. The speaker says her ‘ivy-mother turned into a tree’ which shows her feeling towards he mother. In the beginning, the poet portrays and effect of confusion and sadness at the start: ‘my mother went’ instead of simply saying ‘my mother died.’



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I'm sorry, this is a short-answer forum. Where did these summaries originate?