John Donne: Poems

what is John Donne's attitude towards love in the poem 'Lovers' Infiniteness'?

what is John Donne's attitude towards love in tLover's Infinitness and how does he reveal it?

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The poet complains that he does not yet have “all” of his beloved’s love, despite using all of his resources to woo her. She should not leave some love for others, nor should she leave herself open to wooing by others later. Yet, he also wants her to keep some of her love for him in reserve so that they can enjoy a constantly growing relationship.

The theme of possession and, specifically, commercial transactions underscores the inadequacy the lover feels when he thinks of or discusses the “all” of love that he requires from the lady. He talks of “purchase” and what he has “spent” and is therefore “due.” He has spent his emotional capital, and he worries that new suitors have their own “stock” to cash in as they “outbid” him. In the third stanza, he imagines their growing love as a kind of deposit with interest.

Yet, he knows that love cannot literally be bought. While the poem may strike the reader as a straightforward courtship plea, the paradoxes show how inadequate stock phrases such as “winning love” or “giving one's heart” are. The poet is humbled before the inadequacy of his understanding of love, and by his limitless desire for it. The comparison between love via finance and true love opens up a higher comparison, that between earthly love and divine love. Lines 29-30, “Love's riddles are that though thy heart depart/It stays at home, and thou with losing savest it,” allude to Matthew 16, “Whosoever would save his life shall lose it.” The paradox of love remains on the theological level; somehow we must fully love the divine without giving up ourselves as the ones who love.