Hilary Small on John Donne's "The Canonization" and "St. Lucy's Day"

Published by admin_main on Mon 11 Oct, 2010

"The Canonization" and "A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day"

11. As for the term "canonization" what does it mean? by what process is someone canonized? What is the balance or relationship in this poem between spirituality and erotic love?

The term Canonization in this poem refers to the notion that the Roman Catholic Church held that certain people were considered saints and therefore proper objects of veneration and payer. Canonization is the process that one must undergo to determine if that particular person should be considered a saint.

Although process of canonization has changed over the years, it is a long process requiring extensive proof that a person deserves to be considered a saint. The process usually takes place after the candidates death. Now the Roman Catholic Church has many other titles one can hold after they are deceased. They can be considered a "servant of God", "Declaration 'Non Cultus'", "Venerable/ Heroic in Virtue", and lastly a "Saint." For one to be canonized as a saint, at least one miracle must have taken place.

In the present poem, the speaker thinks that one day he and his lover will be canonized as saints of love rather then looked down upon for their love. Because we get this erotic love sense throughout the entire poem, it makes us question if Donne even realizes the spirituality that goes along with becoming canonized. it seems as though he dismisses spirituality altogether throughout this poem as if it does not exist, as if the grounds for being canonized have nothing at all to do with canonization.

Donne writes on page 1268:

Call us what you will, we are made so by love;
Call her one, me another fly,
We're tapers too, and at our own cost die,

And we in us find the eagle and the dove. (19-24)

These lines offer this very erotic sense to the poem, where this distance between canonization and spirituality is blurred and forgotten. Throughout this poem all the speaker is asking is that he may love his lover, without being looked down on.

Donne writes on page 1268:

Alas, alas, who's injured by my love?
What merchants ships have my sighs drowned?
Who says my tears have overflowed his ground?
When did my colds a forward spring remove?
When did the heats which my veins fill
Add one man to the plaguy bill?
Soldiers find wars and lawyers find out still
Litigious men, which quarrels move,

Though she and I do love. (10-18)

Here Donne states that their love has not hurt anyone or killed anyone, so why is it really so bad to love someone so intensely? We also get this sense that he knows what he is doing is not wrong, therefore he does not really care if everyone else thinks its wrong. It seems as though he knows that someday people will appreciate the love he shares; therefore, he thinks tat someday he and his lover will indeed be love's saints.

"A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day"

12. How might this poem be said to reject or leave behind the love relations explored in poems such as "The Canonization"?

This poem takes a rather negative look at love, completely different from the speakers point of view about love in "The Canonization." The speaker tells us that he is ruined by love. He questions his manhood because he has lost his lover. As if his soul mate defines himself as a man. The speaker takes up a rather negative attitude about love, almost as if he is telling people not to love because in the end it is not worth it and all you are left with is sorrow. This is the complete opposite of the previous poem, because throughout "The Canonization" there was this constant notion that love surpasses everything. However in this poem, love does not surpass everything; instead it leaves you with nothing. Because he has lost his lover everything else in his life has emptied down and he has whittled down to nothing. Nothing but a hollow man. Love poses this threat that after love it liberates the boundaries of our ordinary selves and leaves us with nothing.

Donne states on page 1273:

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown,
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest
If I an ordinary nothing were,

As shadow, a light and body must be here. (28-36)

In this stanza we get this sense of nothingness that overtakes this poem and contradicts the previous poem which was full of life, happiness, hope, and excitement.

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