• Born in London
• Known as the father of the Metaphysical Poets
• He was born Roman Catholic at a time when
Catholics were a persecuted minority in
• Studied at Cambridge and Oxford
• Eventually joined the Anglican church after his
younger brother was convicted of Catholic
loyalties and died in prison.
1572 - 1631
• Donne was appointed private secretary to Sir
• While sitting in Queen Elizabeth’s last
Parliament in 1601, Donne secretly married
Anne More, the sixteen-year-old niece of Lady
Egerton. Donne’s father-in-law disapproved of
the marriage. As punishment, he did not
provide a dowry for the couple and had
Donne briefly imprisoned.
• The couple suffered social and financial
instability, exacerbated by the births of many
• He was later appointed as Royal Chaplain in the
• His wife died at the age of 33, after giving birth to
their 12th child, a stillborn
• In 1621, he became dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral
• In his later years, Donne’s writing reflected his
fear of his inevitable death.
• His learned, charismatic, and inventive preaching
made him a highly influential presence in London.
Best known for his vivacious, compelling style and
thorough examination of mortal paradox.
• He died in 1631.
• The most independent of the Elizabethan poets
• Revolted against the easy, fluent style, stock imagery, and pastoral
conventions of the followers of Spenser.
• Aimed at reality of thought and vividness of expression
• Common subjects of Donne’s poems are love (especially his early
life), death (especially after his wife’s death) and religion.
• Noted for his poetic metre, which was structured with changing and
jagged rhythms that closely resemble casual speech.
• Considered the master of metaphysical conceits, an extended
metaphor, that combines two vastly different ideas into a single
idea, often using imagery.
• His works are also witty, employing paradoxes, puns and subtle yet
• Donne’s pieces are often ironic and cynical, especially regarding
love and human motives.
• His poetry represented a shift from classical form to more personal
What’s the poem about?
• The poet complains that he does not yet have
“all” of his beloved's love, despite using all of his
resources to woo her
• She should not leave some love for others, nor
should she leave herself open to wooing by
• Yet, he also wants her to keep some of her love
for him in reserve so that they can enjoy a
constantly growing relationship.
• Is it love, or the lovers, who are infinite?
If yet I have not all the love,
Dear, I shall never have it all,
I cannot breathe one other sigh, to move,
Nor can entreat one other tear to fall.
All my treasure, which should purchase thee,
Sighs, tears, and oaths, and letters I have spent,
Yet no more can be due to me,
Than at the bargain made was meant.
If then thy gift of love were partial,
That some to me, some should to others fall,
Dear, I shall never have thee all.
Or if then thou gavest me all,
All was but all, which thou hadst then;
But if in thy heart, since, there be or shall
New love created be, by other men,
Which have their stocks entire, and can in tears,
In sighs, in oaths, and letters outbid me,
This new love may beget new fears,
For, this love was not vowed by thee.
And yet it was, thy gift being general,
The ground, thy heart is mine; whatever shall
Grow there, dear, I should have it all.
Yet I would not have all yet,
He that hath all can have no more,
And since my love doth every day admit
New growth, thou shouldst have new rewards in store;
Thou canst not every day give me thy heart,
If thou canst give it, then thou never gav’st it;
Love’s riddles are, that though thy heart depart,
It stays at home, and thou with losing sav’st it:
But we will have a way more liberal,
Than changing hearts, to join them, so we shall
Be one, and another’s all.
Form & Structure
• 3 stanzas, each of 11 lines
• Regular rhyme scheme (ABABCDCDEBB)
• The 11th line of each stanza incorporates a
different meaning of the word ‘all’, becoming
almost a refrain.
• Epistrophe draws the reader’s attention to
focus on the true meaning of having “all” of
someone or “all” of their love.
Tone, Mood & Figurative Language
• Tone – wistful, anxious, possessive, jealous,
anguished lover? (Does not take into account
the opinion of the woman!)
• Mood – dreamlike, romantic, yet tense
• Pastoral imagery
• Profane, sometimes sexual metaphors allow
this poem to be interpreted on two different
levels; pure love, or a more banal form of
Check out more resources here…
• 1. How does John Donne reveal his attitude
towards love in his poem ‘Love’s Infiniteness’ ?
• 2. Comment on the way Donne uses imagery
and metaphors to striking effect in his poem