Rebecca Fogel English 165W

Download 16.66 Kb.
Size16.66 Kb.

Rebecca Fogel

English 165W

“A Valediction; forbidding Mourning” by John Donne

The central crux of “A Valediction; forbidding Mourning” by John Donne is the story of two lovers being separated from each other. The word Valediction comes from the Latin verb valedicere which means to bid farewell. The speaker in the poem is telling his lover that even though they will be away from each other, it should not be a time for mourning and tears because their love is so deep and profound that even though they will be divided physically, they will be connected emotionally. The speaker is anticipating being away from his beloved and therefore focusing on their deep spiritual bond which will get them through the physical boundaries they will be facing. Therefore the main crux in the poem is the physical versus the spiritual. The speaker is saying goodbye to his beloved while holding on to their deep emotional bond to keep them going through the physical distance.

The poem has an ABAB rhyme scheme and is in iambic tetrameter. Donne uses different poetic techniques such as metaphor, alliteration, simile and paradox to strengthen the message of the speaker. The first metaphor Donne uses is in the first stanza, when the speaker says,

As virtuous men pass mildly away

 And whisper to their souls to go

Whilst some of their sad friends do say

‘Now his breath goes,’ and some say, ‘No’ (1-4).

Here the speaker is comparing the separation from his beloved to the separation of body and soul during death. The body represents the physical and the soul, the spiritual. While he and his beloved are divided physically they are like the dead body, but because of their spiritual connection they are like the soul that will always live on. Donne also uses other metaphors such as when the speaker says they should not indulge in “tear floods” or “sigh tempests” (6). He uses this metaphor to refer to their own physical tears and sighs, saying that they should try their hardest to not give into them. The speaker also compares himself and his beloved to otherworldly spheres such as the sun and stars, since their love transcends the physical world. The speaker also compares his relationship with his wife to the legs of a compass. He says that although the two legs are separate parts of the compass, they are both parts of the same compass and work off of each other. So too, the speaker explains, the two lovers remain connected because they are two parts of the same soul.

Donne also uses alliterations in his poem. Examples of this are “Whilst some of their sad friends do say” (3), “Dull sublunary lovers' love” (13), “That our selves know not what it is” (18) and “Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show/ Thy firmness makes my circle just, / And makes me end where I begun” (35-36). Donne also strengthens the point of his poem by using a simile in stanza six, where the speaker compares the expansion of their souls to the expansion of beaten gold. The main message of the poem, of the two lovers being separated physically but being connected spiritually and emotionally, is one big paradox. The physical versus the spiritual, the two lovers being separate parts of the soul but really share one big entity, are all offshoots of that big paradox.

In A. R. Cirillo’s article, The Fair Hermaphrodite: Love-Union in the Poetry of Donne and Spenser, Cirillo discusses Donne’s ideas of love and romanticism. He discusses the type of love that is above just the physical aspect of a relationship, the type of love that transcends. Cirillo says in regards to Donne’s idea of love, “To describe a perfect love, a union that transcended the world and the flesh, the lover had to shut the world out ‘dying’ with regard to material or imperfect things (Cirillo).” Cirillo then goes on to explain that in Donne’s description of love, there is a new form that develops between the two lovers, and this cannot develop solely from a physical union. This “new form” can only develop from a love that is constant and sincere, and from that “came the union of souls towards which the love of rational creatures was supposed to strive” (Cirillo). This idea of lovers having a spiritual connection which transcends this material world is very much apparent in Donne’s “A Valediction; Forbidding Mourning.” In this particular poem this spiritual connection is what will help the speaker and his beloved get through their physical separation and is what helps them say goodbye without tears or mourning. Because they know their souls will still be connected and that really they are not saying goodbye.

Works Cited

Cirillo, A.R. “The Fair Hermaphrodite: Love-Union in the Poetry of Donne and Spenser.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 1969 Rice University.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Valediction; Forbidding Mourning.” Margaret Ferguson, Mary Joe Salter, and John S, Eds. New York: Norton, 2005. Print. 563

Download 16.66 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2022
send message

    Main page