Love is a force that requires an intense devotion of energy and soul, and the loss of love can be completely devastating. In John Donne's "The Broken Heart", the poet shows just how devastating the loss of love can truly be. Through the use of many dark images associated with pain and suffering, Donne portrays the consuming, destroying, and eternal problems associated with love.
In the first stanza, the images Donne uses are closely associated with death and decay. In the first four lines, Donne analyzes not the shortness of love, but its power to consume and "devour". The speaker says "He is stark mad, who ever says / That he hath been in love an hour / Yet not that love so soon decays / But that it can ten in less space devour" (lines 1-4). Here, words such as "decay" and "devour" stand in complete contrast to the typical associations poet's make with love. Donne continues in the passage: "Who will believe me, if I swear / that I have had tile plague a year?" (lines 5-6). This image again draws upon the devouring effects of love. Not only does love devour, but it also destroys. Also, love, like the plague, is short lived because it destroys one's body and soul. Donne emphasizes this saying "Who would not laugh at me, if should say,/I saw a flask of powder burn a day'?" (lines 7-8). In this image, Donne compares the passion of love to a flask of powder. Only a crazy person would say that a small flask of powder could burn for a day. Donne feels this is equal to the fleeting passion of love.
There are three predominant images in tile second stanza that show Donne's views on love. The first image is of the personification of Love. Love is a physical being who swallows a person's heart after the heart has been consumed by grief because "into love's hands it [came]" (linel0). This again shows that Donne has an extremely pessimistic view of love. Love is an entity that only swallows his griefs and allows them to wallow in his stomach to digest.