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Elegy IV: The Perfume

John Donne

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Elegy 4: The Perfume
2003-09-01
Added by: Matt
If you read a short biographic scetch on John Donne (which can be found online) the poem suddenly makes sinse. To summarize briefly, appearently John elopes with a very young (17 yo) Anne. Her father, a powerful and controlling man, is very angry and it takes years for John and his father-in-law to speak to each other.

In the first 5 lines John is talking about being grilled or interogated by her, Anne's father. The interogation is harsh by one in anger and ready to kill evidenced by the glazed eyes and the line about killing a cockatrice, a large mythical snake such as the Basalisk in Harry Potter. His father-in-law swears to remove John from Anne's life even though, "yet close and secret, as our souls, we've been", or on other words, they have intimate to the fullest extent and are wed. Her mother fains love and closeness in order to discreatly check her wealth, "Doth search what rings and amulets she can find", and her health, specifically if she is pregant, "And fearing lest thou'rt swol'n, doth thee embrace". Her brothers are paid to spy on her. Her father's large and faithful servant is employed to keep them abart, apperently before the marraige. Howeveer, he never could keep them apart. The only thing that gave away the fact that John was sneaking in to see Anne was his perfume. John is confussed at Anne conflict of loyalty and love to her father and her husband. He curses her "betrayal". Here something about being called effiminate elludes me. Also his contrition or conflict with the Gods seems unclear. In the end, he is saying he would give up all his perfumes, or cologn as we say today, to stay her fathers course or death. He is consoling Anne, his wife at the death of her father.

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