It was penned before he left on a trip to Europe. It was not published until after his death, appearing in the collection Songs and Sonnets. The poem is divided into sets of four lines, or quatrains. Donne has also structured this piece with a consistent pattern of rhyme, following the scheme of abab. In regards to meter, Donne chose to use iambic tetrameter. This means that each line contains four sets of two beats.
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Buy Study Guide The poet begins by comparing the love between his beloved and himself with the passing away of virtuous men. Such men expire so peacefully that their friends cannot determine when they are truly dead.
Other lovers become fearful when distance separates them—a much greater distance than the cracks in the earth after a quake—since for them, love is based on the physical presence or attractiveness of each other.
Indeed, the separation merely adds to the distance covered by their love, like a sheet of gold, hammered so thin that it covers a huge area and gilds so much more than a love concentrated in one place ever could. He finishes the poem with a longer comparison of himself and his wife to the two legs of a compass. They are joined at the top, and she is perfectly grounded at the center point. As he travels farther from the center, she leans toward him, and as he travels in his circles, she remains firm in the center, making his circles perfect.
It is thought that Donne was in fact leaving for a long journey and wished to console and encourage his beloved wife by identifying the true strength of their bond. The point is that they are spiritually bound together regardless of the earthly distance between them. He begins by stating that the virtuous man leaves life behind so delicately that even his friends cannot clearly tell the difference. Likewise, Donne forbids his wife from openly mourning the separation.
For one thing, it is no real separation, like the difference between a breath and the absence of a breath. The third stanza suggests that the separation is like the innocent movement of the heavenly spheres, many of which revolve around the center. These huge movements, as the planets come nearer to and go farther from one another, are innocent and do not portend evil. All of this is unlike the worldly fear that people have after an earthquake, trying to determine what the motions and cleavages mean.
It thus can gild that much more territory. The final three stanzas use an extended metaphor in which Donne compares the two individuals in the marriage to the two legs of a compass: though they each have their own purpose, they are inextricably linked at the joint or pivot at the top—that is, in their spiritual unity in God.
Meanwhile the other leg describes a perfect circle around this unmoving center, so long as the center leg stays firmly grounded and does not stray.
She will always lean in his direction, just like the center leg of the compass. They are a team, and so long as she is true to him, he will be able to return to exactly the point where they left off before his journey.
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Summary and Analysis – John Donne
If Donne has gained fame in the world of metaphysical poetry then this poem is the main reason behind it. Donne summarizes the concept of spiritual love in this poem. He does not only prove that spiritual love is better but also differentiates it from lust. Donne juxtaposes worldly love to the spiritual love and then through arguments demonstrates that there is no match of spiritual love in this world. He also elaborates experiences of his life as some biographical elements are also there in the poem. He convinces his readers to distinguish spiritual love from lust and develop passions of love. Moreover, this poem is evident that Donne is a man of letters as far as his knowledge to metaphysical poetry is concerned.
John Donne: Poems Summary and Analysis of "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
Romantic, right? On the contrary, his love is like the unnoticed, subtle movements of the stars and planets that control the fates of every person well, according to popular belief. To further prove the greatness of their love, he gives his last metaphor: a mathematical compass—because nothing says sex appeal like mathematical apparatus. But he says that he and his wife are like a compass when drawing a circle.