John Donne (1572-1631) - An English Poet who was born a Roman Catholic but later became an Anglican. His Poems cover a range of subjects from philosopy and mathematics to cynicism about love and spirituality.
His Poem 'Go and catch a Falling Star' describes his cynical attitude towards women and the duality of good and bad characteristics that all human beings are born with. The poem starts by challenging the reader to catch a falling star. The falling star can signify something bright and beautiful that has come to an end and how difficult it is hold on to this goodness for ever. It could also suggest to the reader to try and make a wish and see if it comes true. In fact for him it is as difficult to catch a falling star as it is to 'get with child a mandrake root' which shows the stark contrast of getting a child which is something innocent and joyous to a mandrake root which is used in witchcraft to wish death on someone. Again the contrast of living and the positive is contrasted with death and negativity.
He asks 'who cleft the devil's foot' which is a question he poses to God, as if to imply that He created evil in the devil himself. 'Teach me to hear mermaids singing, or to keep off envy's stinging,' is the next line which again shows the beauty and innocence of a mermaid and her song which contrasts with envy and the stinging the same beauty can cause. This could be a comparison of a woman and her beauty and the ugly emotions she could hide under that 'beauty. He continues to ask 'What wind serves to advance an honest mind' which suggests that no amount of wind can blow goodness or honesty into a person.
The next line 'ride ten thousand days and nights, till age snow white hairs on thee' challenges the reader to travel far and wide and experience 'strange wonders' in order to find a woman 'true and fair' This is his cynicism about the character of a woman and how difficult it is to find someone who is genuine and trustworthy. He concludes by saying that if you are lucky to find a woman like that 'yet she will be false, ere I come, to two or three.' This shows that for him that woman will only be good for a short while after which the falseness will show through. The satirical aspect of his belief is seen in the last line 'ere I come, to two or three' which implies that for a while she might be good but after a while she will show her true colours.
The cynical attitude of John Donne about life, about religion and about women is shown throughout this poem. 'Go and catch a falling star' summarises this attitude by suggesting that all things remain good only for a short while after which they have to come down the pedestal.