John Donne's Articulations of the Feminine

By H. L. Meakin | Go to book overview

2
'The Desire for the Proximate': Lesbian 'Likenesse' in 'Sapho to Philaenis'

Difference of sex no more wee knew, Then our Guardian Angells doe.

( 'The Relique')

So, to one neutrall thing both sexes fit.

( 'The Canonization')

And if some lover, such as wee, Have heard this dialogue of one, Let him still marke us, he shall see Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.

( 'The Exstasie')

Likenesse begets such strange selfe flatterie That touching my selfe, all seemes done to thee.

( 'Sapho to Philaenis')


I. INTRODUCTION

From a consideration of the function of the feminine as figured by the Muse in a number of early verse letters Donne exchanged with male friends, we move in this chapter to the consideration of one poem's representation of feminine erotics. This chapter will focus on Donne's lesbian love poem, "'Sapho to Philaenis'", in an effort to understand its place in Donne's philosophy (or philosophies) of love. Donne writes in a letter of 1612 to Sir Henry Wotton: 'You (I think) and I am much of one sect in the Philosophy of love; which though it be directed upon the minde, doth inhere in the body, and find piety entertainment there.'1 Donne reiterates the notion in

____________________
1
Donne 1977: 121. I would suggest 'piety' is probably a printing error for 'prety'.

-85-

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