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John Donne

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John Donne's poem, "The Bait," is a clever response to the romantic ideas portrayed by both Christopher Marlowe in "The Passionate Shepard to His Love," and Sir Walter Raleigh's The Nymph's Reply to the Shepard. Through connotative and denotative language, Donne is able to clearly portray a sarcastic image of love and deception.

"The Bait" is a poem in direct parody of those of Marlowe and Raleigh. In Marlowe's poem, one is trying desperately to convince another that he can possibly offer several wonderful advantages through his love, therefore, to love him would be a wise choice. His offers include eternal pleasures and worldly wonders that could far out do the love of another. However, through Raleigh's poem, faults in Marlowe's proposal are demonstrated as the object of lust clearly reveals that this shepherds love is of little interest and would in fact be ravaged by the continuously changing seasons of time as the promised roses would fade and wither while the beautifully calm waters of the rivers would turn sharp and desolately cold. Through, "The Bait," Donne sides a bit more with Raleigh as his position also is offensive to that of the shepherd. As Donne begins his poem, readers are cleverly deceived into believing that this point of view supports that of Marlowe through lines such as, "The will the river whispering run; warmed more by thine eyes than the sun," and further, "Each fish where every channel hath, will amorously to thee swim, gladder to catch thee than thou him." This leads readers to believe that the second party is persuaded and rather enamored with the promises entailed by the shepherd. However, as all turns cold, this poem turns its outlook around to demonstrate that the love of the shepherd truly does not believe in his goodness and loyalty as she chooses to retort that the poor fish caught by his promises have truly stumbled across false promises and deceit.

It is at this point that readers can clearly view the correctness in naming this poem, "The Bait." This witty decision by Donne truly demonstrates the meaning behind this poem. As Marlowe's poem works to lure in this unsuspecting woman through deceit and falsehood, Donne comments on the preposterousness of these ideas by using the denotative image of a hook to portray the method of catching a subject that cannot release itself from the grasp of this lure. Through this, Donne expresses his views that Marlowe's promises of pleasure and beauty are simply deceitful lines only used to tempt and decoy this unknowing character into falling into a trap that is rather hard to get out of. Through this, Donne expresses that this sharp bait is easy to catch yet, rather difficult to ditch after it has been caught. Therefore, it is fitting that Donne would utilize such a clever figure of speech as a title to immediately give a sense of luring and sudden trapping. This method of foreshadowing tempts a reader at the beginning of this poem and later helps one to understand Donne's point of view and method of evaluating Marlowe's poem.

Believing that Donne has written his poem with the intention of portraying the original poem by Marlowe as an impossible trap waiting to be fallen into, one can look towards the language that Donne chooses as his poem progresses. At the commencement of this poem, nature is



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