Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poem - Woman's Constancy by John Donne

This poem is a good example of 16th-17th cultural perceptions of women. At the time that Donne was writing England was a patriarchal society in which women were regarded as dangerous, irrational and fickle creatures who had to be kept on a tight leash. Hence a woman was the property of her father until she was married off, after which she became the property of her husband. Similar attitudes prevail today in some parts of the world.

This poem is written in sonnet form -very popular at the time. I think it could equally apply to men, though the title is Woman's Constancy.

Now thou hast loved me one whole day,
Portrait of John Donne as a young man circa 1595
Tomorrow when thou leav'st, what wilt thou say?
Wilt thou then antedate some new-made vow?
    Or say that now
We are not just those persons which we were?
Or, that oaths made in reverential fear
Of love, and his wrath, any may forswear?
Or, as true deaths, true marriages untie,
So lovers' contracts, images of those,
Bind but till sleep, death's image, them unloose?
    Or your own end to justify,
For having purposed change, and falsehood, you
Can have no way but falsehood to be true?
Vain lunatic, against these 'scapes I could
    Dispute, and conquer, if I would,
    Which I abstain to do,
For by tomorrow, I may think so too. 

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