THE ONSLAUGHT OF LOVE During the eighteenth century, many poets explored the concepts of love. Many of these poems discussed lost loves, or unreturned love. John Donne discussed his feelings towards love in his poem "The Broken Heart." Donne personifies love in this poem by saying how once grasped by love, it is impossible to recover from it.
In the first stanza of "The Broken Heart" Donne opens by saying that love is not something that is limited by time. "He is stark mad, who ever says,/ That he hath been in love an hour,/ Yet not that love so soon decays," (l. 1-3). Donne is saying that love cannot be turned on and off. If one is in love his he cannot be in love one minute and not the next. He juxtaposes being in love for a minute to saying that one saw powder burn for a day or having the plague for a year.
"Who will believe meÃ¢ÂÂ¦/That I have had the plague a year?/ Who would not laugh at me, if I should say,/ I saw a flask of powder burn a day?" (l. 5-8) These things are impossible just as being in love for an hour are impossible.
In the second stanza of the poem, Donne begins to why it is impossible for love to last for short period of time. He says love envelopes one's whole being. "Ah, what a trifle is a heart/ If once into love's hands it come!" (l. 9-10) The heart is like a toy once in the grasp of love. The heart is prey to love. "Ã¢ÂÂ¦Love draws,/ He swallows us and never chaws:/ By him, as by the chain'd shot, whole ranks do die./ He is the tyrant pike, our hearts the fry." (l. 13-16) Like a predator swallowing his prey, love swallows the heart whole and relentlessly.
In the next stanza Donne uses rhetorical question to ask if his analogy of how love affects the heart is not true than what did happen when he lost his heart to his love. "If 'twere not so, what did become/ Of my heart, when I first saw thee" (l. 17-18) When he went into the relationship he had a heart; however when it was over his love kept his heart. In fact he not only had she stolen his heart, love and affection, love shattered it like a broken glass. "If it had gone to thee, I know/ Mine would have taught thine heart to show/ More pity unto me: but Love, alas,/At one first blow did shiver it as glass." (l. 21-24) The woman had no use for his love and treated him so bad that she not only tore his heart from him she shattered his heart as well. Donne points out in this stanza how fragile the heart is. He says that unreturned love can shatter the heart like glass.
In the final stanza the author, feels he will never get over the loss of his love. His chest is not completely empty, but it contains only the broken fragments of his heart. "Yet nothing can to nothing fall,/ Nor any place be empty quite,/Therefore I think my breast hath all/ Those pieces still,Ã¢ÂÂ¦" (l. 25-28) Donne says that there is nothing that can repair a broken heart. He feels the fragments represent the hundreds of loves that he will come in contact with but will fall short of his first love. (Those pieces still, though they not be unite;/ And now as broken glasses show/ A hundred lesser faces, so/My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore, But after one such love, can love no more." (L. 28-32) Donne says that after being completely enveloped by love, once the love is over, one will never be able to love again. He says that no one will ever compare to a first love, and it is hard to put back a broken heart to love again.
In "The Broken Heart" John Donne feels that once love takes hold of the heart, it is detrimental to a person once that love is vanquished. Once a heart is broken it can never be fixed if it can be repaired at all to love again. This parallels his thoughts that love cannot be gotten over easily from the first stanza. One may be able to fall in love quickly but it takes more than an hour to get over being in love. Because love is so powerful once it takes hold of the heart, it is difficult to release oneself from its grasp. If one is able to release himself from the hands of love, his heart may be so torn and broken, that it is better to never have loved at all.