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John Donne - Woman's Constancy

             As in many Donne poems, "Woman's Constancy" is written as himself speaking to his lover. "Woman's Constancy" seems at first to be an argument put to a lover by Donne near the end of a brief affair, suggesting that the next morning, when pressed about further meetings, the lover will "antedate some new made vow" or claim that overnight they had both moved on; "we are not just those persons, which we were". The majority of the poem concentrates on the possible arguments a lover might use; giving the impression that Donne was bitter over this experience. However, the final couplet turns this notion on its head, as we realise that the arguments used in the poem are ones that he himself may use; supporting Coleridge's statement that the poem should be titled "Mutual Inconsistency". This turnaround is an example of Donne's humour; while at one level his poems may seem sexist (indeed arrogant), there is also self-mockery running throughout the poem, as well as a faintly sarcastic irony, "Now thou hast lov"d me one whole day", as if even a day is something of an achievement. .
             "Readers of John Donne have long recognised the remarkable extent to which legal, theological, and medical vocabularies compete and overlap in his works." The same is true of "Woman's Constancy"; Donne's arguments are ingenious, utilising legal elements; such as oaths (which are not valid if taken under pressure), and the idea of "lovers contracts", which, while similar to that of marriage (whose contract is only broken at death), the contract lasts only till sleep (a mild form of death) arrives. Therefore, while the actual premise of the poem may seem a little absurd, Donne's addition of legal vocabulary validates his arguments, by applying them to recognised situations in the real world. Even so, Donne's wit is still present in lines such as "Wilt thou antedate some new made vow?" creating a poem that is witty, realistic and absurd.

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