The poem “Canonization” by John Donne is a poem that, simply, was written about love and romance, and how enduring love can be. It is a poem that was written centuries ago during a time when romance, love, and passion were valued by society, and the poet writes it from the perspective of a man who is answering another who is criticizing his relationship with someone.
While this poem is about love and romance, it is also about sexuality, a topic that would not have been talked about openly; therefore the literary devices of symbolism and allusion are used throughout the poem to bring to light the strong sexual desire that lies behind the theme of this poem. Donne’s writing style is full of allusion and symbols, and is written beautifully. The beginning of the poem deals specifically with the narrator’s defense of his relationship and his love. In these first two stanzas, Donne writes, “Alas! Alas!
Who’s injured by my love? ” in an effort to get his critics to understand his relationship. He argues that his relationship does not hurt anyone and that no wars will be fought, nor merchant’s ships downed because of his relationship and therefore, that means that it is perfectly acceptable. Basically, Donne is arguing that life goes on despite his relationship. There is no symbolism used here, but Donne does employ the literary device of allusion as he alludes to his relationship without defining it, nor does he explain who he is talking to.
By the third stanza, Donne focuses his attention on the relationship between his lover and himself, and the deep connotations that exist in his reference to his relationship being like the riddle of the phoenix rising becomes one of the main examples of symbolism found in Donne’s poem. In this stanza, he is illustrating his strong emotional attachment for his lover. He states “at our own cost die”, meaning that despite the risk that their physical relationship shortens lives they will continue to do it because of their intense, unbridled love for one another.
It is here that he refers to the phoenix riddle. It seems that this is significant because he is comparing the rekindling of their sexual desire to this metaphor. When he refers to “we two being one” he is referring to sexual intercourse, and in the context of the phoenix this becomes a symbol of their physical union. In the fourth stanza of “The Canonization”, Donne alludes to their love as becoming canonized because of his writing of this poem.
The poem itself becomes the essence of their love, with Donne reflecting upon their feelings for one another as being “unfit for tomb or hearse”, but that through his writing of sonnets and pretty verse he is able to make an everlasting dedication to their love. Basically, Donne feels that his poem has become the epitome of their relationship and that, throughout time; their love will live because he is able to “canonize” it in verse. Their love has become a legend, and will live on through the poetry he has written.
The final stanza of this poem alludes to an invocation of their love. Donne writes that, “Countries, towns, courts beg from above/ A pattern of your love”, and that he can see the entire world in “the glasses of” her eyes. This symbolism leads into the finale of the poem, which basically states that their love will live for eternity and be coveted by people throughout the land and time. The love they share is so strong that it cannot die, just like a phoenix rising from the ashes.