The essay sample on Love’s Alchemy Analysis dwells on its problems, providing a shortened but comprehensive overview of basic facts and arguments related to it. To read the essay, scroll down.
At the beginning of the poem, John Donne compares a person in love to an alchemist. While an alchemist sorts to create gold from useless metal and make an elixir of life, a hopeless romantic seeks to create a love that lasts for eternity, or till they die.
In the speaker’s point of view, both things are impossible. According to the writer, a love that is blissful and pure is only a farce. Just like the alchemist who works fruitlessly to achieve an impossible thing, the ignorant lover is just as stupid. John implies that those who claim to attain a pure love are lying that what they are after is sexual satisfaction.
John uses an oxymoron when he says ‘So, lovers dream a rich and long delight, but get a winter-seeming summer’s night’.
Those who go looking for love expect a lifetime of it, only to find that it can never last. This can be translated to mean that one night of fun can result to a lifetime of misery, which might be the taking care of a child. The alchemist wastes his time trying to make medicine that works. In turn, all he gets is a ‘chemic’ that smells. In the same way, a person who hopes to find a love that is pure and lasts is disappointed for none exists.
The words ‘get’ and ‘got’ mean that he has experienced physical love. He is however, disappointed that he is yet to find what others call ‘spiritual love’.
The speaker admits that they are those that are more knowledgeable than he is when it comes to love. He says ‘some that have deeper digg’d love’s mine than I, Say, where his centric happiness doth’. This could mean that he believes the only thing that can be achieved from this relationship is sexual intercourse, that those that understand it have discovered its true ‘centric’ or ultimate happiness. It could also mean that anyone is stupid if he/she ever tried to understand love. He points that he has ‘got’ ‘loved’ and ‘told’ in his quest for love, but he has not been successful, just like the alchemist who keeps trying but never succeeds. He has followed steps, just like an alchemist would, but it does not seem to work for him.
He attributes this failure in finding ‘spiritual love’ to the fact that he quests something that is not there, and therefore, cannot be found. Hence, everything hopeless romantics claim to be true is ‘imposture all’. An alchemist will claim he can make gold and take your money, but his efforts will be fruitless. The ‘glorified pregnant pot’ for the alchemist is the ‘odoriferous thing’ he got after wasting his time, money and effort thinking that he can make an elixir. If he is to yield a substance that smells, then he will go around glorifying his findings. For the two love-struck individuals who sort out a pure love, a baby was what they got instead.
Since the speaker finds love to be merely sexual, he sees no need to invest his time, honor, money and sacrificing his ‘ease’ in the ridiculous notion of love. He also claims that it is stupid to believe that love is a union of the mind. Even uneducated men like his servant, a common person, can feel the same pleasure as he if they chose to take a wife. A man should not seek qualities in a woman that are to be found in the masculine gender, and say that he has taken her as mate, an equal, because of her mind or personality, thinking that, in her, he will find ‘angelic’ intellect. Women do not possess a mind, and the only thing one should hope for is sweetness. A woman is only complete when she is joined with man.
The mummy that Donne talks of in the poem can be said to bring out women as beings without a soul, weak and obedient. Though they may be sweet and witty, they are mindless walking bodies. They are thoughtless, sex objects. It could also mean that when they are taken in as wives or possessed, the sweetness and wittiness disappears. They prove to be the opposite of what men married them for. Another meaning might be that a certain spirit possesses women. Here, he uses a metaphor to poke fun at women. The poem’s name is ironic. The speaker claims that love does not last; therefore, there is no alchemy of love. If the alchemy of metals was stupid, then the alchemy of love was equally absurd.
Those that say that marriage is a union of the mind and body lie; just like saying they hear vulgar music from beyond the spheres during wedding ceremonies. The writer uses the word ‘play’ at the near end of the play. He implies that a Platonist that marries for love and a man that takes a wife without that notion are the same. Both end up being disappointed since none will be led to the pleasure that is said to exist in real love. They only find temporary physical pleasure. The poem has used the rhyme scheme ‘aabbacddccee’. It gives the poem the feeling of a song while at the same time enhancing the view of love as a ‘mystery’. The personification of ‘pregnant pot’ has been used to represent a woman’s pregnant belly and the alchemist’s pot. The belly is because of a false notion, and the pot holds a failed experiment.
The speaker tries to save men from falling for the lies that he did, to let others know that he, like others before him, has tried time and again, and failed. Just like the alchemist and his never-ending failed experiments, pure love cannot be found. Anyone who claims to have found that kind of love is leading others astray. Disappointment befalls both the alchemist and the lover, as he will soon find out. John uses allusions in the poem to show how difficulty it is to find love. Alchemy and vain bubble achieve this. He enhances his argument through stylistic devices such as tone, symbolism, similes and metaphors.