Duffy and Donne and their portrayal of the loss of identity Essay Example
Duffy and Donne and their portrayal of the loss of identity Essay Example

Duffy and Donne and their portrayal of the loss of identity Essay Example

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  • Pages: 8 (2113 words)
  • Published: November 25, 2017
  • Type: Analysis
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Identity and distinctiveness has habitually been subjected to in most of John Donne's poems, in this case the "Holy Sonnet IV", as has been questioned in Carol Ann Duffy's "Originally". In these poems, which have been written centuries apart, both poets display well the loss of identity suffered by them and the great impact of it on their lives. The mood and tone of the poems have been well woven, however Donne's poem distinctly involves feelings of guilt and remorse whereas in Duffy's, there is a sense of lost.John Donne was born in 1572, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is as true to entitle him as a seventeenth-century poet as an Elizabethan one, nonetheless he is seen to mock the Elizabethan, Petrarchan poetry more often than praise.

During the time, England as a whole had become Protestant but Donne


and his family were Roman Catholic. They had had a difficult time, with many Catholics being condemned to death or imprisoned, and in Donne's case not receiving degrees from universities like Cambridge and Oxford.However he realized he would have no career if he remained a Catholic and hence went Protestant; the heartache he suffered to leave the religion of his family was perceptible in his writings. Donne's poetry, in particular his religious poetry, still illustrated a Catholic mind's eye, and the sense of remorse he felt for deserting his religious conviction is quite pervasive and without doubt seen in the "Holy Sonnet IV". It can be observed that the reader cannot find a satisfying conclusion to any single sonnet; resolution is apparent only when one reads the entire sonnet sequence.

Duffy, on the other hand,

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was born in 1955 in Scotland. Her family moved to Stafford, England when she was six years old. Being a diasporic writer, many of her poems reveal on time, change and loss and to the reader it seems "Originally" was exclusively written to portray her feelings of transformation due to the move. The shift to England establish to have a astute outcome on Duffy, who ultimately ascribed to it her sense of rootless existence and exploration for a new individuality.

Contrary to Donne's change, it seems that Duffy was able to tolerate this shift with time. ikewise, the readers can perceive that within the one poem itself. "But then you forget, or don't recall, or change". "Originally" is about the reminiscences the speaker, who is mostly the poet itself, of a move or shift of home. This first person narrative includes a progression of events, with varying chronological orders:- the first stanza occurs within the period of a few hours, "our mother singing our father's name to the turn of the wheels..

. as the miles rushed back to the city". The second, an epoch of a few days or weeks and the last over a period of months, even years.This exploit of chronology could be used by the speaker to underline the rapidity of change felt by her, losing pace after the move.

It also slows down the connotative pace of the poem, creating an increasing atmosphere of complacency. Due to Donne's background and him being an apostate, we can also claim that the "Holy Sonnet IV" was written as first person perspective, however from line 3 onwards Donne uses the stream-of-consciousness perspective, drawing attention to

the deepest thoughts of a third person, in this case his spirit.This brings out the deepest emotions of the speaker, and also makes the poem justly dramatic. The start of the poem "Oh my black Soule! " further adds to this effect, particularly the word "Oh" and the exclamation mark. This phrase also illustrates how, from the commencement of the poem itself the poet has considered himself to have sinned presenting to the readers the extent of the culpability felt by the speaker due to his change of identity. Donne has further structured this poem in the dramatic and rhetorical form of an urgent, heated argument, with himself.

Also, it sets apart Donne's poem when compared to Duffy's as it administers to classify the time from which it comes and heighten the use of language of that time. Donne does not, unlike Duffy, focus on the chronology of events as much, as he incessantly talks about the possibilities of the outcome of his sinned soul showing to the readers his main focus as to why he wrote this poem. Both the poems are deeply expressive as they engage the deep emotions of the speakers, and eventually the message being conveyed by both the poets is that identity is an important aspect of oneself and it can be very difficult to accept and adapt a change of it.Both of these poems describe events and situations as well as evoke in the readers first the feeling of loss, then the guilt felt due to it and in Duffy's case also how the speaker managed to cope up with the change.

Donne, in a different way, evokes the feeling

of sin by getting into a moral argument. One thing that Donne didn't mention in the poem is that he doesn't talk about how he was literally forced into the change of religion by his society for the survival of his family and him.This makes the readers realize that the speaker feels so guilty by the change that he disregards the reason why he changed belief, like it didn't matter. But, to the readers, in this day and age it actually does make a difference. The narrative poem "Originally" in the first stanza talks about the pain of leaving an environment one is so well-known with to moving on to the difficulties of acclimatizing into a new place and lastly highlighting what happens after a period of change, when it is not in one's control. Holy Sonnet IV" on the other hand displays persistently a sense of guilt and abandonment, until the volta.

On the whole however the poem has a negative, remorseful mood to it. This mood is brought out by the usage of words and phrases like "black Soule", "done/ Treason", "dam'd and hal'd to execution" "summoned/ By sicknesse", "holy mourning blacke" and similes like "like a thiefe" where Donne compares his soul to a thief, wanting to escape the prison but as the death sentence approaches, wants to reside in it.He has also used the metaphysical conceit, Donne's famous usage of a literary technique, by comparing his soul to a thief and the body to a prison. This shows how the speaker is seen to be struggling with himself, and this extensive use of emotions makes the readers believe him effortlessly. Moreover

it creates a mood of insanitariness and contamination, as though the speaker's soul is not worth living. Duffy's poem on the other hand, has a sense of lost and sadness rather than abandonment.

It is seen how both speakers could not help their situation, and their responses vary drastically. This highlights the kind of influence an era or society can have on an individual. "My brothers cried, one of them bawling Home", the word "bawling" creates imagery, a noisy chaos, which is eventually mentally recreated by retracing of their roots, their home. The word "Home", written in italics, puts emphasis and stressed on how much the speaker misses the sense of complacency, and how they feel their Home, a place of familiarity is essential for permanence hence an identity.As the poem progresses, a change of mood is observed, from the noisy chaos of sudden change to adaptation and greater comfort and finally to the act of fitting in and settling down.

"Holy Sonnet IV", it seems, is not directed to a large audience, keeping in mind the society of his time. One can also claim that as the poem is severely dramatic and uses intense strong emotions. However, the readers may feel that Duffy's poem may be directed to an audience which has gone through a sense of displacement, as she sympazises and empathizes with them.Thus, her poem is automatically subtler as compared to Donne's. Donne's poem, thus, has a stronger and more painful sounding tone as compared to Duffy's, which is more of hopelessness. Donne's poem is organized around one viewpoint, whereas Duffy's changes as the speaker changes, adapts and grows up.

"Originally" is delicately

evocative and intimate, the speaker reminiscing her past and her memories. "All childhood is an emigration" is the conclusion Duffy comes to, eventually stressing on the fact that the speaker never felt she had a permanent sense of identity.The language used by the two poets varies enormously, Donne's uses the seventeenth century's, Elizabethan language whereas Duffy uses a more formal, recent language. This effects the overall mood and the background of the poems. Donne's diction includes words like "thou", herald", "dam'd", thee" which emphasize the era in which he wrote this poem.

This constant reminder of the era in which he wrote further emphasizes the fact that the society had a severe impact on his mentality and hence his writings.He uses words like "black", "sinne", "mourning", "treason", "thiefe" to highlight how the speaker's soul has been tainted and sullied. Duffy uses formal English, and at several instances it is seen that she is using Italics - "Home/Home", "I want our own country", "Originally? " to emphasize the fact that identity is essential for an individual and that she feels secure in a familiar environment. The repetition of the word "Home" again creates an emphasis. She also uses a simile - "my parents' anxiety stirred like a loose tooth in my head".She uses the phrase "loose tooth" to show the action of growing up.

The choice of the simile is a representation of the physiological change she is going through. Another simile, "shedding its skin like a snake" shows how the changes she went through after the shift were natural and could not be helped. At this point, the adult self of the poet is observing

the child self. The phrase "skelf of shame" uses a Scottish word "skelf" which is "splinter" in British English.This phrase shows us that she is nostalgic, but remains only a little bit hurt after time passes. a red room which fell through the fields" is a metaphor which essentially indicates their red vehicle breaking away through the fields, going further away from home.

She says "fell through" mostly indicating the sudden change she went through. She talks about change furthermore - "Some slow leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue where no one you know stays. Others are sudden". This shows the change of persona, becoming her adult self again.

This effect very efficiently explains to the readers the situation, using deep emotions and in-thought.The title itself suggests that the major concern of the poem is roots. It displays the very heart of the matter. Duffy also uses caesura "Others are sudden" to add to the sense of hopelessness felt by the speaker. The structure of "Holy sonnet IV" is a Petrarchan sonnet, with an octate, a volta and a sestet.

The octate argument is that his soul is black and how it has sinner, doesn't want to return to God. At the sestet, he talks about how his red, sinned soul can still be made pure, but uses a rhetorical question - "But who shall give thee the grace to beginne? showing the helplessness and insecurity he feels towards his identity.The volta brings out a twist, by creating a sense of hope "Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lacke". The rhyme scheme for the octate is abba abba whereas for the sestet

is ababcc.

This rhyme and structure of the poem pulls the poem forward and gives it a constricted feel, which match with his emotions. The line length remains the same more or less for all, the line "But dam'd and hal'd to execution" being the shortest also creating the abruptness of death.Duffy's poem is in free verse, with equal length paragraphs. This again highlights the difference of time periods in which the poems were written. Thus, both Duffy and Donne manage to highlight the sense of loss of identity and its importance through varyingly different ways. By being catapulted into a new set of social, or religious circumstances both poets have felt the loss of identity and effectively display it in their poems.

The realization that displacement hurts and is traumatic to one is without doubt illustrated.

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