A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. John Donne. Title & Occasion. The speaker, a man about to take a long journey, says goodbye (“valediction”) to the woman he loves, telling her not to cry or feel sad (“forbidding mourning”).
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The speaker, a man about to take a long journey, says goodbye (“valediction”) to the woman he loves, telling her not to cry or feel sad (“forbidding mourning”).
Donne’s friend and biographer Izaak Walton said that Donne wrote this poem for his wife when Donne left for a diplomatic mission to France. She urged him not to go because she was pregnant and unwell, but he felt obligated to the mission’s leader, Sir Robert Drury.
The entire first stanza is a simile introduced by As and followed by So. The dying men in the first stanza are not part of the dramatic situation, but only offered as an analogy to the lovers’ separation.
Stanza 1 – Just like virtuous men die quietly, almost whispering to their souls and so quietly, in fact, that their friends cannot tell if they have died or are still alive,
Stanza 2 – we should part quietly, with dignity.
No crying, no sighs – no noise
Their parting is referred to as melting. This image reinforces the speaker’s desire to part quietly (Something in the process of melting does not normally produce much noise.)
In would profane their love to create this type of scene.
The speaker begins his discussion of the superiority of their love.
He states that earthquakes (“moving of th’ earth”) cause damage and create fear. People are very concerned – they question the purpose and meaning of the event.
In comparison, irregularities in the movements of remote heavenly bodies (“trepidation of the spheres”), although greater in magnitude and force, do not create this fear or alarm. Because they are unobserved, they are considered harmless (“innocent”) compared to earthquakes.