A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning By John Donnes

Categories: John Donne

In the poem "A Valediction: Prohibiting Grieving", by John Donne, the speaker is consoling his enthusiast who is mournful of the speaker's impending departure. The speaker is stating that considering that they have stronger than normal love for one another, their love will sustain the separation. Donne utilizes metaphysical conceits and comparative images to highlight the essence of the poem. The speaker is reassuring his fan by reminding her of how fantastic their love is; it goes beyond the physical and therefore will conquer whatever barrier is set on their course.

He is prohibiting his lover to mourn his departure.

In the first half of the poem the speaker contrasts their love in between that of spiritual and material objects; the inferior actions of the earth compared to those of the divine "spheres" (11 ). He is trying to show to his lover how their love is not of the regular kind; it is more than easy love. He compares their love to that of pure gold saying "let us melt, and make no noise" (5 ).

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Pure gold, when melted, does not spatter, it melts down efficiently. Therefore he is saying that if there love was gold it would make no noise for their love is that of the purest kind. The speaker then says that earthly things" [bring] damage and worries" (9) but because their love is above earthly matters, they need to subsequently not hesitate of parting. The speaker feels that there ought to be no grieving and overemphasizes his lovers anguish, telling her there need to be "no tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests" (6 ).

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The narrator talks of "dull sublunary fans ... whose [souls are] sense'" (13/14); these lesser couples' love is based upon the 5 senses. He is stating that love can not be merely based upon these senses, which are simply physical. Love needs to transcend the physical to be pure and their love does. The speakers tone then turns soothing by stating that they both understand that their love is more than physical for that reason they should be at ease. A physical separation is occurring however not an emotional one: their love will sustain. He describes their "2 souls ... which are one" (21 ).

He says that their separation will not be a "breach but an expansion" (24) of their love; their souls are united and cannot be separated by whatever forces shall come in their way. He continues to develop the image between their love and pure gold by saying that through this separation their souls will simply spread apart "to aery thinness" (24) but never separate (as does pure gold when flattened).

Donne compares the couple to a geometrical compass, a metaphor which carries two significant meanings. The first being the idea of a compass being two separate entities, two feet, which are attached but not always together. He says that the compass is them, separate beings but still united as one, by their soul. One foot of the compass will stay as the other moves around and away, and the stationary foot "hearkens after it" (31) but is unable join the other. The speaker is making the point that not matter how far one of them may travel they will always complete the circle and eventually return to the beginning. The compass also portrays their love as a circle. A circle is an image of perfection: never ending and continuing for eternity as is their love. The speaker is saying that no matter how far apart they may travel they will always come back to one another. He may travel far but he will  [draw] his circle just, and... end, where [he] began" (36).

The speaker described before how their love transcends the physical, it is deeper than sex and arousal of the senses. In the final stanzas though, the speaker addresses all the factors of any healthy relationship. The speaker says that his "compass foot", as it draws nearer home, grows "erect" (32), an allusion to the sexual component of their relationship. Despite the awesome power of an emotionally based relationship there is still a strong a physical aspect. He misses her with his soul but also physically yearns for her.

This poem is written to comfort a lover. Donne opens with comparative images of the physical and earthly, saying that the sentiment between the two lovers is more than earthly love. He then uses metaphysical conceits, comparisons of unrelated objects--the physical and the spiritual--to further emphasize his point. The two compasses, no matter how far apart they travel will always return to the other. If one is truly in love then physical separation does not matter; if anything it will only strengthen the union. The feelings between the speaker and his lover are greater than common love, therefore they can endure the separation; the speaker's departure should not be mourned.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning By John Donnes. (2016, Jun 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/john-donnes-a-valediction-forbidden-mourning-essay

A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning By John Donnes essay
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