7 Oct 2021

John Donne Use of Wit, MA English Part.1 Syllabus Punjab University


Donne use of Wit

There is no satisfactory definition of wit. As per dictionary, wit means a keen perception and cleverly suitable expression of amusing words or ideas or of those connections between which give rise to amusement and pleasure. There are two type of wit. Superior wit lies in the use of conceits and assembly of ideas which seems dissimilar and incongruous. Inferior wit lies in the use of paradox, pun and word-play.

Donne is labelled as the monarch of wit. Donne wit lay in the discovery of hidden resemblance in dissimilar things. Donne s’ wit is peculiar and deliberate. His wit has intellectual vigour. His flow of wit is natural and an expression of knowledge. T.S Eliot is of the view that Donne s’ wit is the fusion of opposite- blend of thoughts and feelings. His wit is unique and is a class in itself. There is a world of difference between the wit of Pope and Shakespeare and the wit of metaphysical poets. Donne s’ wit is the compound of many similes extracted from many objects and sources. His wit is supreme and outstanding. He is fond of logical sequence and far-fetched analysis.

Donne s’ wit has many moods-from gay to serious and from happy to pessimistic. Sometimes he is flippant and irreverent. In the poem The Flea, he calls flea a marriage bed and a marriage temple. In many of his poems, he scolds the traditional vows of lovers and the Petrarchan conventions. Sometimes there is self-mockery and the poet plunges from sublime to the ludicrous.

The secret of Donne wit lies in its mental strength and intellectual power. The poet ha a rational outlook of life one critic observes and says that it is, “the outward projection of his sense of many sidedness of things, of his many fold possibility and ultimately recognition of multiplicity of experience.”

The poet has ironic wit. Irony is a literary device which projects reverse meanings than the intended one.  The objective of irony is satire without injuring anyone s’ feelings. Donne s’ irony in the love poems be summed up as, “What fools these mortals be.”

His analogies and comparisons are outstanding and witty.  In Poem, “Love s’ War” he compares the qualities of a good lover and a good soldier. Both face the same things and situations. Both awake all over the night and face harsh enmity. Exaggeration is another necessary item of Donne s’ wit. This exaggeration appears to be outrageous in its high spiritedness. He yokes two heterogeneous ideas together.

To some critics, Donne wit is one of the means of escape, an escape from boredom and depression which constantly afflicted him during the period of creative activity.  Through wit he avoids both self-pity and Hamlet like frustration. Donne is a king of wit.


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