Sentence In Song Written By John Donne Meaning?

Updated 30 September, 2023
John Donne’s poem explores a traditional literary theme the author’s era: women's romantic infidelity. The lines “Or who cleft the Devil’s foot, Teach me to hear mermaids singing, Or to keep off envy’s stinging” seem to endorse the misogynistic belief that all women are unfaithful and shouldn't be trusted.
Detailed answer:

‘Song: Go and catch a falling star’ by John Donne is a sexist poem as the speaker heavily implies that no woman can be both beautiful: physically and personality-wise, the speaker emphasises the point that all women are deceitful, Donne use of ‘othering’ women highlights the continued idea of the gender hierarchy which has been uncontested and so has become a global norm.
In “Song: go and catch a falling star”, Donne belittles women, he argues that is is impossible to get a perfect woman and that all women are deceitful. Donnes explores this idea through the use of fictional imagery: “Teach me to hear mermaids singing, Or to keep off envy’s stinging” which suggests that that women are ‘immoral and dangerous seductress’, this is supported as Donne suggests that no man can escape a mermaid's song as it lures in men, makes them hypnotized and then leads them to their downfall as they are then swiftly murdered which indicates that all women are ‘shrew’. Donne wants to know if there is any way that a man can avoid the temptation. Donne also uses juxtaposition as he contrasts the real images with the fictional language (e.g. “Devil’s foot and mermaids”), this could hint that Donne believes that truthful and loyal women are impossible to find as all women are hypocritical who are hiding under a hidden agenda. Additionally, he believes the misogynistic view that no woman can be trusted as they are dangerous and ‘immoral’ as he conveys the message that any man who loves a woman is doomed to feel jealousy and envy which enforces the idea that men are socially dominant. Although, this is ironic as Donne himself ended up falling in love with a woman and went as far as eloping with her.

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