The Immortal Poets Society discussion

John Donne > The Bait

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

There will the river whispering run
Warm'd by thy eyes, more than the sun;
And there the 'enamour'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

If thou, to be so seen, be'st loth,
By sun or moon, thou dark'nest both,
And if myself have leave to see,
I need not their light having thee.

Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poor fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowy net.

Let coarse bold hands from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest;
Or curious traitors, sleeve-silk flies,
Bewitch poor fishes' wand'ring eyes.

For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait:
That fish, that is not catch'd thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.

message 2: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
This poem is a conceit, which literary defines as a figure of speech that "develops a comparison which is exceedingly unlikely but is, nonetheless, intellectually imaginative. A comparison turns into a conceit when the writer tries to make us admit a similarity between two things of whose unlikeness we are strongly conscious." This is something for which Donne was known. As a matter of fact, my Early English Lit. professor was a scholar of this time period. He said that poets during this era would compete to see who could come up with the most ingenious conceit.

"The Flea" is an even better example. I will post that poem tomorrow.

message 3: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
Here are the first four lines of Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love":

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

Compare these to the first four lines of "The Bait". As Natalie brought up in another thread, Donne is parodying "The Passionate Shepherd" here.

message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
Metrics - The poem is written in 7 quatrains. The rhyme scheme is aabb, ccdd, and so on. The meter is iambic tetrameter. This is one foot shorter and two syllables shorter than most English poetry of the time (Iambic pentameter). How does this affect the "music" of the poem?

message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
Marlowe's speaker says, "We will all the pleasures prove" (1.2). In contrast, Donne's speaker says, "We will some new pleasures prove" (1.2). This seems to be a reference to the witty idea of comparing his beloved to bait used in fishing, which would have been a new way of looking at things. Marlowe's pastoral theme was trite; it had been used over and over again. Donne and the other metaphysical poets purposely sought to compare two things that did not seem alike.

message 6: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
Figurative Language

Donne introduces the subject of fishing metonymically be referring to golden sands, crystal brooks, silken lines, and silver hooks (1.3-4). He then personifies the river by mentioning that it whispers and runs (2.1).

The speaker also personifies the fish, largely by describing their emotions. They are enamored with the speaker's beloved (2.3). They amorously swim (3.3). They are glad to catch the beloved (3.4). In the end, the speaker observes that the fish are wiser than him (7.3-4).

message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
The Conceit

How is the beloved like fishing bait? The fish are enamored by the beloved (2.3-4). There is such attraction to the beloved that they beg themselves to "betray" him/her. The fish would be happier to catch the beloved than, the beloved would be to catch the fish (3.4). Then, the speaker metaphorically states that the beloved is his/her "own bait" (7.1-2). In the conceit, this makes the speaker like a fish, to which he compares himself in the last two lines.

message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 95 comments Mod
The Beloved

The speaker focuses on two features of his/her beloved. The beloved's gaze is warmer than the sun (2.2). The speaker then spends an entire stanza describing the beloved's brightness. The beloved is so bright he/she darkens the sun and moon (4.2), such that the speaker doesn't need their light to see his/her beloved.

Interestingly, the speaker does not describe his/her beloved straightforwardly. The technique is to demonstrate how the fish and he/she are attracted to "the bait". This is designed to leave the reader with the impression that the beloved is supremely attractive. Does it work?

back to top