Analysis of Confined Love by John Donne
Love is a poem inspired by Ovid’s work. It is a logical game in which the speaker tries to convince a woman, probably his mistress, that promiscuity is justifiable. This poem looks like a syllogism, beginning with men to go towards animals and then free love, the very aim of the poem. In the first stanza, the speaker addresses a married woman and tries to convert her to promiscuity. The “old or new love” are respectively the wife and the mistress, love here representing sex. It is written that this man wants to take a revenge on womankind because of his impotence.
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It is suggested that the woman’s husband is impotent as well and that he stays with her only because he cannot seduce any women because of his problem. If the speaker would take this revenge on womankind, maybe his situation would be bearable. Therefore, he invents a law which states that one should not be allowed to know more than one man in order to make everybody suffers as he does. The beginning of the second stanza is made of rhetorical questions whose answers go without saying. The speaker compares the cosmos and the animals to humans and says that seduction cannot be controlled.
He writes that women radiate their charms as the stars radiate their light; they can be seen by everyone. After mentioning the cosmos, he mentions the animal world, stating that birds are not punished for being unfaithful and that it should be the same for humans. There is no law for animals because they live in a state of nature. Human beings are supposed to be higher than animals but the speaker shows the woman he is addressing that animals do not have laws. It is a persuasion addressed to this woman; it attires her intellect since she is less free than “birds”.
There is a high sense of irony in that beasts are better than humans. The question is: should humans act like animals since they have no laws? In the third stanza there are still rhetorical questions. They are quite ridiculous because they suggest that we have to make the most of what we have. The “fair ship” should be used to travel the world and not to stay in harbour. As well as for “the arbours”; fruits should be picked and orchards should not be abandoned. These metaphors implicates that one must use what one has at one’s disposal. In short, it would be a waste to keep our partner for ourselves.
The last argument to promiscuity is introduced by this sentence “Good is not good, unless a thousand it possess”. It implies that women should make love with a thousand men to be appreciated and they should let themselves being seduced by many men, as the speaker tries to do in his poem. The conclusion of the poem is that love is confined by laws and particularly here because of the impotence of the man who cannot do it anymore. This syllogism ends with the ironical argument that human beings should act like animals since they are freer in nature.