A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING
by John Donne
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."
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers' love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assuredиd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
At the beginning of "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," the
poet, John Donne, engages in a didactic lesson to show the parallel
between a positive way to meet death and a positive way to separate from
a lover. When a virtuous man dies, he whispers for his soul to go while
others await his parting. Such a man sets an example for lovers. The
separation of the soul from the body, and the separation of lovers from
each other, is not an ending but the beginning of a new cycle. The poem
ends with the image of a circle, the symbol of perfection, representing
the union of souls in a love relationship. This perfection is attained
by parting at the beginning of the circle and reuniting at the point
where the curves reconnect.
According to Helen Gardner, the metaphysical poem takes the
reader down a certain path, a fixed line of argumentation. This
valediction, an act of bidding farewell, proceeds in the guise of a
monologue in which a speaker attempts to persuade a lover to remain
faithful during his absence. The monologue is dramatic in the sense that
the stay-behind lover is the implied listener. Donne's monologue is
unique because he uses metaphysical comparisons to show the union of the
lovers during their period of separation.
Although the poem attempts to persuade the lover as an implied
listener, it also speaks indirectly to the reader who is drawn into the
argument. The speaker's argument is supported by an implied reference to
the authority of Greek philosophers and astronomers. According to
Patricia Pinka, this use of esteemed authority to justify a view about
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