Pink poetry break and the rage of a rejected 16th-century master of verse
It was in making a floral record of this month of May that it came to us that the playwright William Congreve (1670-1729) was wrong about there being no one angrier, not even in hell, than a woman scorned – because hell hath actually no fury to compete with a male poet whose advances have been roundly rejected. We mean, specifically, John Donne, and have in mind his spine-chillingly spiteful plan for revenge in ‘The Apparition’.
Because some human beings writing poetry can be seen as aspiring to the perfection of flowers, a train of thought beginning in pink roses and ending in Donne is not illogical. As we clicked away, thinking of that particular poem, we found ourselves wishing that truth in advertising could replace the ancient conventions of seduction and romance. Bouquets. Chocolates. Perfume. Laboriously-crafted illusions. But, now that no-makeup selfies are all the rage with women, what if men were to send baskets of spiky pine cones instead of floral arrangements, accompanied not by fluffy declarations of sentiment or verse but laundry lists of flaws and comprehensive histories of bad behaviour?
Then everyone beginning any sort of liaison, virtuous or otherwise, with anyone else, would only have to exceed abysmal, execrable, expectations.
Reader, if you want to check your understanding of Donne’s 16th-century usage, hop over to the clean and admirably straightforward illumination of ‘The Apparition’ on the blog of Linda Sue Grimes, here.
When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.