The poem “Song: Go and catch a falling star” was written by the cherished poet, John Donne. In this satirical poem, through a series of images, he conveys his belief on the faithfulness, or rather the unfaithfulness of women.
Donne’s use of diction, allusion, imagery, sound effects, and tone create a unique richness in the language of the poem, which make it enjoyable to read. The denotations and connotations of this poem create more depth and richness. In line 5, the word “mermaid” denotes a beautiful, mythical creature. The first connotation that comes to mind is the myth because mermaids are usually thought to be fictional.
This goes along with Donne’s message because he believes that finding a woman so perfect is impossible. The other connotation of the term “mermaids” is more negative because they can also connote death. Mermaids have been used in other literature to lead someone, usually men, to their downfall and death due to their initial innocent and alluring appearance. This connotation of mermaids goes along with Donne’s theme because the line where he hears “mermaids singing” is representing of the beauty of women luring men in false hope.
Other instances of the multiple connotations are in lines 3 and 4 with “a mandrake root” and “the devil’s foot”. Both a mandrake root and a devil’s foot are mythical plants. A mandrake is a plant that, when pulled out of the ground, lets out a piercing scream that can kill someone if heard. A devil’s foot is a plant that, when powdered and lit on fire, creates a noxious smoke that can kill someone if inhaled. One connotation of these is that they have very unrealistic properties, which is similar to Donne’s belief that faithfulness is unheard of in females.
The line when “get with child a mandrake root” is stated is an obvious example of an impossible task, like Donne’s belief of finding a perfect woman. A connotation of a devil’s foot is satanic because it could be thought of a part of the devil. This can be interpreted so that a woman is like the devil, a true being and bringer of evil. Another connotation of the mandrake root is sexual because the root is known to be used to help with fertility; this word is often linked with women.
Also, mandrake root can appear to look like a deformed human figure, which could represent the innocent plant when the root is buried; however, once it is brought up from the ground, one can see the true appearance, which is unappealing and ugly.
Allusion is very prominent in Donne’s poem. In the first stanza, there are two allusions. The first allusion is the mermaids. The mermaids mentioned in the poem allude to the Odyssey. In the Odyssey, there were mermaids sitting near a dark cave, and their voices were beautiful and alluring. When ships would sail by the cave, the sailors would hear their voices.
Some crew members would jump off the ship and would either drown or get pulled down by the mermaids. John Donne used the phrase “mermaids singing” to allude to Homer’s mermaids in the Odyssey because he believed that no woman had good intentions, no matter how beautiful they were.
The next allusion is the mandrake root. Although a mandrake root is a real plant, it is also often used in myths that involve magic and wiccans. In the play Mandragola by Machiavelli, the mandrake root was used to create a potion. This potion was used to trick and to take advantage of a person in bed.
This can be related to John Donne’s poem because he felt that women were unfaithful and would do anything to get what they want. Another allusion of the mandrake is to numerous of Shakespeare’s plays, which use the mandrake root as well. In Antony and Cleopatra, the line “Give me to drink mandragora that I might sleep out this great gap of time” and in Othello, the line “Not poppy, nor mandragora, nor all the drowsy syrups in the world, shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep” alludes to the mandrake roots’ magical properties of making someone drowsy or bringing them to an eternal sleep.
The connotation of the mandrake root where it is deadly alludes to the line in Romeo and Juliet, “Shrieks like mandrakes’ torn out of the earth” and in King Henry VI, the line “Would curses kill, as doth a mandrakes’ groan. ” The imagery in the poem is used to explain how impossible it is to find a faithful woman and to over exaggerate finding this kind of lady. The mandrake root, devil’s foot, and mermaid are obvious examples of impossibility. The title of the poem, “Go and catch a falling star” is another example of something that is thought of as unfeasible and almost magical.
The lines “Ride ten thousand days and nights, Till age snow white hairs on thee” are used as a hyperbole. Donne uses these lines as an exaggeration to explain that it does not matter how long a man searches for an honest woman because even if he looks for one for a thousand days and nights, he will never find one. Another use of a hyperbole is in the lines “Go and catch a falling star, Though she were true, when you met her, Yet she will be false”. Donne used these lines to overstate that every woman, although innocent at one time, will become corrupted.
The sound effects used in the poem include assonance, alliteration, and rhyming scheme. In the phrase “Go and catch a falling star”, there is a repeated ‘a’ sound that is an example of assonance. The alliteration is heard in the line “If thou be’st born to strange sights” with ‘b’ and ‘s’. There is also a rhyming pattern throughout the entire poem, where the first and third lines rhyme, the second and fourth lines rhyme, the fifth and sixth lines rhyme, and the last three lines of each stanza rhyme. These auditory devices are used to keep the readers’ attention and in order to make the overall poem to sound more flowing and lyrical.