"The Broken Heart"

Explore John Donne's vivid portrayal of love's immense power in "The Broken Heart". Dive into our interactive lesson and find new insights into this transformative force.

"The Broken Heart"
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John Donne (1572-1631) is one of the greatest metaphysical poets. He was also the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and protege of King James I. Here he writes about "The Broken Heart."
Donne opens by saying anyone who thinks love is short-lived, mild, or moderate is "stark mad." Love consumes, it swallows and never chews. Claiming to have recovered from love is like saying you "had the plague a year" or saw "a flash of powder burn a day."
Ah, what a trifle is a heart, If once into love's hands it come! All other griefs allow a part To other griefs, and ask themselves but some;
They come to us, but us love draws; He swallows us and never chaws; By him, as by chain'd shot, whole ranks do die; He is the tyrant pike, our hearts the fry.
If 'twere not so, what did become Of my heart when I first saw thee? I brought a heart into the room, But from the room I carried none with me.
If it had gone to thee, I know Mine would have taught thine heart to show More pity unto me; but Love, alas! At one first blow did shiver it as glass.
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Donne describes the heart as if it were a city besieged, suddenly and irrevocably overtaken. By love, "as by chain’d shot, whole ranks do die." (Chained shot was a type of cannon ammunition consisting of two cannonballs linked by a chain.)

Story From

John Donne Collection