Air And Angels

John Donne 1572 (London) – 1631 (London)

Twice or thrice had I loved thee,
Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame,
Angels affect us oft, and worshipped be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.
But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is,
Love must not be, but take a body too;
And therefore what thou wert, and who,
I bid love ask, and now
That it assume thy body I allow,
And fix itself to thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
And so more steadily to have gone,
With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw I had love's pinnace overfraught
Every thy hair for love to work upon
Is much too much, some fitter must be sought;
For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme and scatt'ring bright, can love inhere.
Then as an angel, face and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,
So thy love may be my love's sphere.
Just such disparity
As is 'twixt air and angel's purity,
'Twixt women's love and men's will ever be.

About this poem

"Air and Angels" is a poem by the metaphysical poet John Donne, first published in 1633 as part of his collection of poems entitled "Songs and Sonnets". The poem explores the theme of the nature of love and the relationship between the physical and spiritual aspects of human experience. The speaker begins by describing how physical beauty, represented by "air", is fleeting and transitory. However, the speaker then goes on to describe how the love between two people can transcend the physical realm and become something more spiritual, represented by "angels". Through the use of intricate metaphors and wordplay, Donne presents a complex and nuanced view of love and the human experience, making "Air and Angels" one of his most celebrated works. 

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified by acronimous on February 19, 2023

1:11 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 1,068
Words 231
Stanzas 2
Stanza Lengths 14, 14

John Donne

John Donne was an English poet, satirist, lawyer and a cleric in the Church of England. more…

All John Donne poems | John Donne Books

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Discuss the poem Air And Angels with the community...

  • JdeLorenzo08
    I love this ! Nicely done .
    LikeReply3 days ago
  • Hazelmarie2024
    LikeReply18 days ago
  • LatinX
    Wow! Loved it.
    LikeReply28 days ago
  • amandak.45897
    Well written, thanks for sharing
    LikeReply1 month ago
  • LesleyJane
    Poetic use of prose yet I am a little confused by some of its meaning. I shall reflect on it.
    LikeReply1 month ago
  • Kixy
    This whisks you away to a time period where language flourished.
    LikeReply2 months ago
  • amyf.53811
    Well written. Classic.
    LikeReply2 months ago
  • PixieLove24
    Driven. Love of soulmate to soulmate to me this was so fiery.
    LikeReply3 months ago
  • heathert.34240
    Perfect insights
    LikeReply 25 months ago
  • petergartner
    What, technically, is the variable metre he uses ?
    LikeReply8 months ago
  • ritchiechelle
    This is just amazing. Really makes you think
    LikeReply10 months ago
  • vandhana_k
    Good support
    LikeReply 110 months ago
  • dougb.19255
    Enjoy the precise structuring of sonnets with John Donne. Perhaps only Elizabeth Barrett Browning is on a par with him.
    LikeReply 110 months ago
  • yomihabib
    What's the message about angel and others?
    LikeReply 110 months ago
  • vandhana_k
    Good theme idea.
    LikeReply11 months ago
  • kimba75
    Wow! Deep! Shows how love can affect us in more than one way.
    LikeReply11 months ago
  • jerrywlawrence2666
    Simply Classic. I Respect Mr. Donne's Place As A Forefather.
    LikeReply11 months ago
  • 1902757
    My opinion is that Nightingaleprince has three brain cells and that this poem is classical and beautiful.
    LikeReply 112 months ago
    • NightingalePrince
      perhaps, his blend of satire and religious connotation is strikingly unfamiliar to my palate.
      LikeReply4 months ago
  • dougb.19255
    Right after the Great Fire of London, John Donne took off with a bunch of spiritual writings, including the Holy Sonnets. They are excellent. But nightingaleprince says that he has no patience for it, doesn’t understand it. Yikes!Slow down Buddy. 
    LikeReply12 months ago
  • NightingalePrince
    i don't like this poem at all because it is difficult to understand. what on earth was he really talking about?
    LikeReply 11 year ago
    • stevekritselis_1
      totally agree. No idea what the hell it's about or what I'm supposed to get out of it. I feel stupid for reading it and don't like work that is condense ting or something trying to be intelligent and beyond the comprension of most people. IDK just didn't like it 
      LikeReply10 months ago
    • musclegirl
      He sees his angel and falls in love with her but he has to remind himself that she doesn’t have a body so it cannot be. Perhaps she is in him or she is in the air. But she is not there in the flesh and the feelings of despair overwhelm him . He realizes the truth until he sees her again. 
      LikeReply 19 months ago
  • CHenderson
    This is a wonderful poem. That was written beautifully it follows the criteria like no other. I loved this and it’s very realistic and relatable
    LikeReply1 year ago
  • luisestable1
    This is a great poem and about it much could be said. The thing here is between the flesh and the spiritual represented by "air" and angels".
    Donne does a marvelous job developing this poem in every line. One needs to pay attention to each word and each verse to get the most out these lines. 
    LikeReply 11 year ago
  • jennifert.99162
    Wonderful job. Really enjoyed it.
    LikeReply 11 year ago


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