Assessment Of A Valediction Forbidding Mourning Poem: Adrienne Rich Vs. John Donne

Categories: Love

The primary aim of this paper is to provide a comparison between Adrienne Rich’s Poem titled, “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”, and that of John Donne with the same title. The two poets employ a sophisticated poetic language in their quest to express the feeling about the circumstances that the speakers of their poems find themselves in. The two authors tend to emphasize on the life of women in the society. The two poets try to give insight to the societies of the world and assert that the society ought to show love to women if their pain, as depicted in the two poems, is to be averted.

“A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”, poem by John Donne mainly expresses the feelings of love that Donne has towards his wife (Donne 5). The poem was first published in early 1633 which are exactly two years after the death of John Donne. The poem was first published in the poetry collection part known as Songs and Sonnets.

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Despite this, John Donne wrote the poem in early 1611 especially to his wife to comfort her while Donne was in France on government business activities. At this time, his wife was back at home in Mitcham in England. According to the title of the poem it is clear that Donne tries to depict and educate the society that when a wife and husband separate and part they should not mourn but only bid each other farewell (Donne 15). The poem involves various emotional feelings of love especially to wife and husband who lack physical closeness.

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However, Donne depicts and illustrates in the poem that he and his wife have spiritual and physical dimension of love, and they can feel apart even if they are not together in the same region. Their souls are spiritually together, and they will join together physically when he returns back to England from France (Donne 12).

“A Valediction Forbidding Mourning,” poem by John Donne is the metaphysical poem that involves a number of characters including spiritual, transcendent, as well as concrete and abstract objects. In the poem, John Donne compares the love he shares with his wife to a compass, and he involves a lot of mockeries as well as sentimental romantic tone. The poem includes a lot of exaggerations that is based on literary perfect use of hyperbole. The poem also involves a logical argument where Donne argues and asserts that he and his wife will remain together spiritually even if they are physically apart. There are expressions of various feelings that express personal as well private feelings that indicate the valediction that Donne tries to depict in the poem (Donne 22).

From the analysis of the poem, there are various figures of speech as well as literary figurative language that are applied in order to make the poem more interesting. For example, Donne involves extensive use of metaphor in order to convey his love message. In stanza one he compares his separation from his wife to the separation of a human soul from his body when he dies. The body represents the physical love while the soul symbolizes the spiritual love that Donne and his wife enjoy when they are not together (Donne 18). The sixth stanza also indicates the use of paradox as well as simile style especially when Donne compares their souls to the expansion of beaten gold. Their poem also involves a number of alliteration such as in line three, “while some of the sad friends do say” (Donne 32).

The main theme of this poem is the love especially between a husband and a wife. The love described in this poem is both spiritual and physical, and the main factor keeping the lovers tighter according to this poem is spiritual and intellectual despite their physical separations. The poem also describes the theme of death and how good men in the society usually die without complaining.

The poem external structure is from stanza one to stanza nine and mainly depicts wife and husband relationships and love in the society (Donne 13). On the other hand, “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”, poem by Adrienne Rich also depicts the female voice in the society (Rich 11). According to Adrienne Rich, women in the society, mainly writes about themes that touch their plight, and most of them do not indicate female experiences such as pain, anxiety, lesbianism among many other subjects. In stanza one, Rich depicts and illustrates how males fear reading female literary writings despite the valediction given to them by females. Rich also illustrates some of the painful experiences that female individuals undergo in the society. According to Rich men have are not reducing the pains they experienced in the modern society (Rich 8).

The poem also involves the use of various symbolism and metaphorical language. The poem also depicts both past and future experiences of individuals in the society including impending death that all human beings must undergo in the society. Rich depict how death experiences are painful and require a good farewell to look more comfortable. The poem also illustrates that life is full of challenges and troubles, and the human body will experience pain in cases of troubles in their life. The wish of dying is metaphorically indicated in the poem where the author says, “my bleeding is under control,” in stanza three. Rich argues that the death will end human sufferings in life (Rich 17).

According to Rich leaving a legacy of fearless expression about death and encourages women writers to face the future with bold steps without thinking about their past life (Rich 15). She argues that planting of red plant after death of people especially by men to women is a new symbol for the good future. Rich asserts further that a new feminist image is soon dominating the society (Rich 7).

Therefore, it is clear that the poem central theme is about death. The valediction forbidding mourning and the main aim of the author in the poem is to encourage women writers to start writing about their experiences in order to adequately express their feelings and past experiences.

Comparison of the Two Poems

Unlike John Donne Poem of nine stanzas, Adrienne Rich’s poem is having six stanzas with different number of lines. For example, the first stanza is having four lines, the second stanza one line while the fifth stanza has six lines (Rich 5). The poem also involves the use of various language structures such as the use of commas, semicolon, and colon as well as other language structures.

The use of different language structures such as comma and semicolon is also in the John Donne’s poem. Furthermore, both the two poems also involve the use of different figures of speech as similes, repletion, symbolism as well as metaphors and imagery.

The two poems also share and have the same title, “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”. It is also clear that John Donne poem main theme is love while Adrienne poem mainly talks about women experiences in the society as well as the ability to move on after losing loved ones due to death experiences. Both the poems also depict and describe the theme of death and how people usually feeling very sad due to death experiences in the society. However, Rich main aim is to encourage women writers to write about their experiences in the society while John Donne majorly depicts how the soul and the human body depicts love experiences.

Adrienne Rich Poem was written in around 1970 while John Donne was written in early 1611. Since the two poems share the same title, it is clear that Rich loved and had a lot of knowledge about John Donne’s poem. Furthermore, Rich used this title to challenge women to avoid male dominance in the society by encouraging female writers to dominate the literary writing industry. This will promote gender development in terms of literature in the society.

The use of punctuation in both the poems is also similar, and this indicates that the two poems do not only share titles but also share internal structures. The poems also aim at encouraging individuals in the society that their feelings are crucial, and they should express them without fear in order to promote their happiness and joy in the society.

It also clear that Donne poem indicates deep love relationship with intense closeness and pleasure while the love relationship discussed by Rich is full of bitterness and pain. Donne poem also describes how long distance relationship may be devastating to couples who lack firm trust and spiritual connection. This because according to Donne physical love cannot be stable in cases of difficulty and troubles while spiritual and intellectual love bond couples in all conditions and situations.

Both the poems also value the importance of farewell in all cases whether in death conditions. Furthermore, the title of these poems indicates some love feelings as well as sad feelings suggested by valediction and mourning experiences. Rich and Donne try to argue that where there is valediction; people should avoid mourning in the society. This is because valediction is closely associated with love feelings and farewell experiences.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Assessment Of A Valediction Forbidding Mourning Poem: Adrienne Rich Vs. John Donne. (2024, Feb 06). Retrieved from

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