a valediction forbidding mourning n.
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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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Presentation Transcript
title occasion
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”).
  • 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.
stanzas 1 2
Stanzas 1 & 2
  • 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.
stanza 3
Stanza 3
  • 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.
stanza 4
Stanza 4
  • The speaker continues his discussion of the superiority of their love.
  • Changeable (“sublunary”) love, love that is purely physical rather than spiritual (“whose soul is sense”), cannot withstand an absence.
    • Why?
      • The love will change when the object of the love (the other person) is removed.
      • Because this type of love is based on the physical, it cannot endure a physical separation.
stanza 5
Stanza 5
  • The speaker continues his discussion of the superiority of their love.
  • Their love is superior to this physical, changeable love.
  • Their love is not just based on the physical; it is spiritual (“Interassured of the mind” – connect this idea to Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116”).
  • When the physical (the person – “eyes, lips, and hands”) is removed, their love is not affected.
    • This separation is minor – like an earthquake compared to a huge event in the heavens.
stanza 6
Stanza 6
  • He considers them one soul.
    • Because their two souls are one, they will not really separate when he leaves on this journey.
    • Instead they will expand, like gold does when beat with a hammer.
      • Because gold is malleable, it can be hammered very thin without breaking.
stanza 7 9
Stanza 7-9
  • Even though he considers them one, if he must say they are two separate souls, then they are like a compass (the type of compass used to draw circles).
  • They are each a foot of a compass.
    • She is the “fixed foot” – she does not move. She stays in the center, his anchor, standing firm.
    • When he travels, she leans after him (just like a compass), calling after him and bringing him home.
    • He must “run” off course (go on this journey), but her steadiness makes his circle perfect and brings back where he started.
metaphysical conceit
Metaphysical Conceit
  • Complex and ingenious figures of speech that make surprising connections between two seemingly dissimilar things.
  • Donne’s metaphysical conceit – comparing two lovers to the two feet of a compass.
  • True love joins lovers not only physically but also spiritually.
  • True love is transcendent, enduring the circumstances of everyday life that may separate the two in love.