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  1. #1
    sympathy is offline Junior Member
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    The Indifferent by John Donne

    The Indifferent by John Donne

    I can love both fair and brown;
    Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays;
    Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays;
    Her whom the country form'd, and whom the town;
    Her who believes, and her who tries;
    Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
    And her who is dry cork, and never cries.
    I can love her, and her, and you, and you;
    I can love any, so she be not true.

    Will no other vice content you?
    Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
    Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?

    Or doth a fear that men are true torment you?
    O we are not, be not you so;
    Let me—and do you—twenty know;
    Rob me, but bind me not, and let me go.
    Must I, who came to travel thorough you,
    Grow your fix'd subject, because you are true?

    Venus heard me sigh this song;
    And by love's sweetest part, variety, she swore,
    She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more.
    She went, examined, and return'd ere long,
    And said, “Alas! some two or three
    Poor heretics in love there be,
    Which think to stablish dangerous constancy.
    But I have told them, ‘Since you will be true,
    You shall be true to them who're false to you.’”
    Can you explain the highlighted portion of the poem for me? I tried hard but I can't understand.
    Thanks.

  2. #2
    susiedqq is offline Key Member
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    Re: The Indifferent by John Donne

    In the first stanza, the poet is speaking to himself. He states his attitude about love.

    In the second stanza, he speaks to lovers about this attitude.

    In the third stanza, the poet says that Venus (the goddess of Love) has heard his attitude and has an opinion and a lesson for the poet.

  3. #3
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: The Indifferent by John Donne

    Will no other vice content you?
    Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
    Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?


    "Vice" = constancy in love.

    O we are not, be not you so;We [men] are not constant in our affections, so you women should not be either.

    Let me—and do you—twenty know; Allow me freedom to love as many as twenty others, and you too can have this freedom.


    She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more. She had never heard this before and that in future she will not allow it to happen


    some two or three
    Poor heretics in love there be,
    Which think to stablish dangerous constancy.
    But I have told them, ‘Since you will be true,
    You shall be true to them who're false to you.’” There are some two or three poor [heretics in love] which hope to establish a dangerous constancy of love. But I {Venus} have told them that if they wish to be constant in love, they can be but they must not expect their lovers to be constant in return.
    Last edited by Anglika; 17-Feb-2008 at 13:27.

  4. #4
    sympathy is offline Junior Member
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    Re: The Indifferent by John Donne

    Thanks, you two.

    There're still two lines that I don't understand. Can you help me?

    Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
    Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?

    There is no new word, all words are familiar but the structure is so hard. I can't understand.

  5. #5
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Re: The Indifferent by John Donne

    Donne is not easy at the best of times!

    The first of these lines has a sort of implication that the mothers of the women being addressed by the poet were themselves not constant in love.

    The second line is saying "perhaps you have worked through and used up all the various ways of being constant/faithful, and so now you are seeking some new or alternative ways".

  6. #6
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    Re: The Indifferent by John Donne

    I love Donne. But yes, Anglika's right, you do have to struggle for meaning sometimes.
    You might be having trouble with the expression 'to serve your turn' - to be suitable or fitting for your needs.

    "Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?" - Why can you be satisfied with inconstancy as your mothers were?'

    The main leap of the brain for this poem is to deal with the idea that the poet is asking the woman not to be faithful to him because he doesn't want to be committed to her.
    Last edited by Clare James; 18-Feb-2008 at 20:14.

  7. #7
    sympathy is offline Junior Member
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    Re: The Indifferent by John Donne

    Thanks, James and Anglika. Now I fully understand the poem.
    Actually I disagree with his idea of love, but no problems :D

    Thank you again.

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