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John Donne's Song: Catch A Falling Star

John Donne

The tone is very cynical and satiric
                    It is not known, but one can assume that Donne or someone he cared about very much was hurt by a woman's infidelity, and Donne expressed that frustration in this poem. It seems he's lost all hope in honest and fair women completely; since he goes on about how hard one would have to search to find a trace of an honest woman. Therefore, we can assume that he believed the woman who betrayed him was special as well: that he had searched far and wide to find a very special woman.
                   The speaker first asks who he is speaking to to do impossible things (catching falling stars, recite history perfectly, see who grabs the devils foot), and then he asks them to do something a little more feasible: not to be hurt when one is envious - not to be bothered by envy.
                   Then, he says that if this person is born with the natural ability to see unbelievable sights or things that are rare if not non-existent, to go search ten thousand days and nights (about 27 years) until the hair on their head is white (they are older - the person who he is speaking to is older already, understands the "whips and scorns" of life). After searching for such a long time with such an amazing seeing ability, the speaker says that this person will see all sorts of strange wonders but never "a woman true and fair."
IF this supernatural person happens to come across one woman who happens to be honest, the speaker says that even she will fall short of true morality - "yet she / will be/ false."
                Donne also uses to poem's structure to emphasize his points throughout the poem. After the person would search everywhere and see fantastic things, they would
"swear /
No where"
lives an honest women. Even on a web page, that separation has a very separate, rigid, firm, definite connotation that affirms his belief. In the last stanza, Donne uses that effect again. Even if the seeker finds one woman who happens to seem slightly honest and good, even
"She /
Will be"
dishonest eventually as well. The separation of the 7th and 8th lines is a very efficient method of defining the meaning of this poem.
                 By using comparisons and poem structure, Donne achieves an effect of utter cynicism and satire.

Poetic Devices
Besides comparisons and poetic shape, there are several other devices used in the poem to convey Donne's meaning. The rhyme scheme is abab ddd: more than the scheme, the words that are used in each stanza are emphasized more by the scheme. For example, in the last stanza, Donne writes about the pleasantly surprising event of finding an honest women. The "abab" scheme has a very sing-songy sound to it that sounds as if Donne is actually making fun of someone who would believe the possiblity of finding an honest women. To exaggerate the satire even more, he rhymes the next 2 lines as if to tease the reader into finding out what happanes next in this soap opera. In the last 3 lines, he confrims the female's infidelity and defines it with the solid pounding of the rhyming line endings.
                Some more poetic devices include alliteration, echo, and diction. The first use of alliteration is in line 10: "strange sights." Obviously that repetition is used to emphasize just how "invisible" (line 11) honest women are. In line 22, Donne uses "might meet" almost as an oxymoron to emphasize woman's predictability in being unfaithful. The continuous idea that is repeated throughout this poem is that of woman's unfaithfulness: "No where / Lives a women true and fair... Yet she / Will be / False." There are some word choices by Donne that pin-point the message he's trying to convey in the poem: "ten thousand" as a hyperbole to emphasize how hard one should search to find a trace of an honest women; "Age snow white hairs" - by personifying Air, Donne zeroes in on the audience to let us really understand why he's using so much reprtition in the 2nd stanza - by saying the seeker is getting focused on by Age, he's really asking us to understand his point of view in realizing how rare honest and fair women are; "Lives" - in line 18,there is an interesting idea that since Donne differentiated between all women and those living women, he could be saying that the only honest women who ever lived was his wife, and this could change the poem's tone to very reminiscient and wistful - however, that idea is repudiated by the fact that the his Songs and Sonnets were released long before he even married Anne More; "pilgrimage" - once again, Donne is simply reinforcing the massive efforts one would have to make to find an honest women.
               John Donne, as a metaphysical poet, was very colloquial in his poems as far as their rhythm. He wrote in a similar fashion to how his peers communicated. That, as well as the other devices, achieves a very matter-of-fact tone as if he were telling one of his friends, "by the way, there is no honest women alive."

To find out more about John Donne, visit the following sites, which also helped me.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at micahljones at

John Donne's Song