The Ghost Creeper: John Donne Proving He’d Still Creep On Women Even If He Were Dead The Apparition is a highly melodramatic poem Donne uses to explore the emotions of a jilted lover. The meter of the poem adds interest as it does not remain constant. It begins with a pentameter line followed by a trimeter, pentameter, tetrameter, pentameter, pentameter, pentameter, diameter, tetrameter, pentameter, pentameter, trimeter, pentameter, pentameter, pentameter, and finally ends on a hexameter line. The Rhyme scheme is divided up by lines. The first five lines are A, B, B, A, B. Lines six through ten are C,D,C,D,C.
The next section, lines eleven through fourteen are E,F,F,E. Finally the poet ends with a rhyming triplet on lines fifteen through seventeen. Another interesting aspect to the poem is that it is told in future tense instead of the present adding more drama to the words of the speaker as he is imagining how the situation would play out. The Apparition is told from the perspective a man (the poem never specifies the gender of the speaker, but through my interpretation I envision a man speaking), who was killed by his lover and has come as a ghost to her bed, only to find her there with another man.
When he arrives, the woman senses his presence, not only by the eerie feel he gives the room, but by the “sicke taper [beginning] to winke”(6). His presence frightens her, so she attempts to awaken the man in her bed. However, the man thinks she is attempting to wake him to have sex with her again, so he shrugs her off by pretending to continue sleeping. The fear of the unearthly atmosphere causes a great deal of stress for the woman. Donne describes how this will affect her composure by saying “…poore Aspen wretch, neglected thou/Bathed in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lye”(11-12).
Donne’s clever sense of humor is reflected in these lines as “quicksilver sweat” not only refers to her sweating out of uneasiness but also refers to her being covered in liquid mercury, which at the time was thought to cure syphilis. Although the ghost takes pleasure in the woman’s fear, he does nothing to harm her which is illustrated by the lines, “I’d rather thou shouldst painfully repent/Then by my threatening rest still innocent. ” (16-17), meaning I’d rather you be sorry for ruining my life for the rest of yours than take my revenge.
I chose this poem because I liked the rhyme scheme and the variation in meter. The variation makes the poem more interesting and unexpected. I also chose the poem because I like Donne’s cynicism and wit and this poem illustrates that well. There has been some debate as to whether this poem is a metaphor for a cheating lover or is to be read literally. I chose to read it literally, because scorned ghosts are way cooler than middle aged men with hurt feelings.