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In complete contrast, the speaker in The Altar is ambiguous as Herbert refers to a ‘servant’, (1) which implies anybody could be speaking it; whether it is the poet, the reader or even a priest, as it seems to be in the form of a prayer. Furthermore, the speaker illuminates they are addressing someone of higher importance as he refers to the ‘Lord’ (1). In addition, the adjective ‘broken’ (1) is an expression of a heartfelt sense of inadequacy and so this further captures Herbert’s meaning to define man’s place before God. It is important to take in to account how Donne and Herbert have a distinct contrast in how they use religion as a theme to evoke the meaning of their poems.Following on from this, Donne uses the general insignificance of a flea to be the primary image of the poem thus revealing his humorous and witty tone; as it contrasts with the act of intercourse, which is of monumental importance to many religious people back in the seventeenth century. Unlike Donne, Herbert uses the conceit of an altar to show how one should offer himself to God. Through his conceit, Herbert highlights the importance of devoting oneself to God, whereas Donne only uses religious imagery in order to win over his lover. In The Flea, the metaphor ‘three lives in one flea spare’ (10) contradicts what the speaker believes to be of unimportance. The speaker tries to manipulate his lover by suggesting she is going against the sanctity of marriage if she kills the flea. The image of ‘three lives’ equates to the three persons of the Holy Trinity; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By incorporating this imagery, Donne effectively uses Biblical references to shape his argument and tries to seduce his lover in a crafty manner.


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