THE FUNERAL by John Donne

CRITICAL APPRECIATION
This poem is a mixture of light-heartedness and seriousness. The poet has been rejected by his beloved. In sheer desperation and agony he wishes to sacrifice his life as a martyr on the altar of the god of love.

But in the meantime, he has secured a token of love from his beloved. This is a lock of her hair which he has worn round his arm. He thinks that the beloved’s hair will preserve his dead body and prevent it from decay and disintegration. It is a kind of charm or rather an embodiment of the outward soul which will give him immortality. The poet ultimately wishes to die as a martyr but fearing that the hair may be worshipped as a relic, he wants it to be buried in the grave along with him. This will be a sort of revenge on the cruel beloved, because some part of her body will be in the grave while she is still alive.

DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT
The idea of the bracelet of the beloved’s hair worn by the poet is the central theme of another, poem called The Relic. There the poet mentions that the hair is a sort of device which will make the souls of the lover and the beloved meet at the grave and spend some time together before the day of judgment. The bracelet of hair will also be regarded as a relic, sought by all men and women in need of love. This relic will be expected to perform miracles and bring success to lovers. In this poem, however, the hair is supposed to save the lover’s dead body from disintegration. Secondly, the hair is a sort of a hand-cuff or fetter for causing pain to lover. The poet wants the hair buried with him as a sort of revenge on his beloved for his rejection. So, the bracelet of hair worn by the lover leads to an entirely different situation in this poem.
The poet wants no one to take away or destroy the bracelet of hair on his arm because it is a kind of charm which will preserve the limbs of the body. Just as the brain controls all the parts of the body, in the same way, her hair will hold together the limbs of his body in an organic whole. Perhaps the beloved never thought of this. She thought that her hair was a kind of charm or manacle to cause suffering to the lover. The poet, however, feels that he must punish the beloved for rejecting his love. He will commit suicide and thereby become love’s martyr. He will have the satisfaction of carrying a part of the beloved to the grave. If she could not save him from dying, he could not help burying a part of her body.
CRITICAL COMMENTS
The poem contains three stanzas of eight lines each. Lines two, five and seven are comparatively short. This is a typical poem which uses the conceit of the hair which first causes some satisfaction and then some justification and anguish. The poet uses the image of the soul and the brain for the function performed by the hair. Then he compares the hair to manacles and as such a source of pain and suffering. Finally, the hair may become a relic and a piece of idolatry. All these fanciful images are used by the poet in order to express his anger and frustration. All in all, the poem records a series of moods or attitudes of the rejected lover centred on the subtle wreath of the beloved’s hair on his arm.
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