?A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning? Essay, Research Paper
Almost every analysis of ?A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning? comes to the same conclusion as seeing the poem as a whole. They see Donne?s theme as an appreciation towards a love that holds its strength even through separation. Most also recognize the poem?s equal relation to body and soul. Although, most of the criticisms argue that the poem contains the use of sexual ambiguity, the paths diverge on where and how it is used. Similarly, in light of Donne?s masterful use of conceit with almost all his works, it can almost universally be accepted that such symbols as the gold leaf and the compass are liked to the lover?s unity, but there are several interpretations on Donne?s distinct meaning. Actually, these kind of specific divisions seem to be the only type of contrast these critical interpretations of ?A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning? have.
The first stanza provides the first example of this kind of slight deviation in viewpoint. Louthan distinguishes the opening of the poem as Donne?s attempt to urge his wife into acceptance of the situation. He sees a certain ?dignity and sacred genuineness? about the love of the speaker and his lady; hence, they are not to protest too much. Instead of the unclear, almost uncompassionate tone that Garland perceived, Louthan takes Donne?s analogy of virtuous men?s death as an intentional comparison of the two forms of noble departure. Louthan argues that Donne?s introduction implies that there is a disparagement of lovers who do make a great fuss over separation, because they are ?inferior beings? whose love depends on ?physical propinquity (47).?
Garland?s view holds the same pattern as Louthan. However, she argues that the implication the poem has about the moroseness of parting detracts from the author?s analogy of the virtuous men?s death. She develops this by saying the author seems ?remote? both from his mistress and from any anxiety over his imminent departure. His control and reasoned argument seem to Garland to refute his consolation. She further questions, ?just who is forbidden to mourn at this leave-taking (140)??
Although their criticisms do not agree on Donne?s intentions, a bond between their views can be made. If Garland can see that there is an intended disconnection between Donne and his wife then, it almost seems that Louthan would agree, but contend that it was understandably intended. Louthan, like many other critics, would reason that Donne planned to express the strength his love of his wife and their strong connection by developing a tone that would be as most people see, at first hand, as remote. Most people panic before they part from this world, and likewise most lovers mourn as they part, so most people would see Donne?s feeling to his separation of his wife as almost cold. However, Donne recognizes, as most critics see his intention, that when love is virtuous it does not need to be potent only by the physical connection; therefore, the spiritual love of Donne and his wife does not need to be obligated to mourning or panic, because they understand that their love resides on a higher level.
It is in part of line five, ?so let us melt?(Norton 1075) and the fifth stanza that most analysts can fully come to an agreement as to Donne?s intentions. Sinha, like many others, identifies the poems next analogy as a contrast to the poem?s last analogy of a compass. She categorizes the first analogy as the two-fold soul, and explains that Donne is telling his wife that their soul as one will not be broken by absence, but will simply ?be expanded by it like gold beaten into a leaf (163).? Equally, the Reader?s Note: ?A Valediction?, in the England in Literature text book explains that the analogies that he uses, are more characteristically defined as his use of conceit.* The passage explains that the gold spreads when beaten like ?their soul will expand, without separation or break, to cover the distance.?(240) According to these two views, there will really be no separation at all, since their relationship is spiritual, and their souls are one.
However, Garland distinguishes more than most critics, she sees the final lines of this analogy as Donne?s introduction of a mild version of religious metaphors in ?The Canonization? and ?The Exstasie.? She develops beyond this stating that Done and Anne keep their sacred knowledge secret, becoming priests of love, more knowledgeable and devoted than the ?layetie?(Norton 1075). The comparison to their love to priestlyhood, as she sees it, suggests ?superiority?, but ?not arrogance; for Donne ignores the implications of his metaphor, as if he had grasped it hurriedly?(141). It seems that Garland recognizes the intent, like the other critics, that Donne had, to make strong relationship between he and his wife, but her insight skews from the others on how Donne is trying to develop it.
The second and third stanza can be almost universally accepted as an argument for the Ptolemaic system of the universe in concordance to their love. Peters? explains the history more in depth than other authors do:
At that time, people still believed in the Ptolemaic system of the universe — that the earth is at the center and that the sun and all the planets and stars circle the earth on concentric rings. It had long been possible to predict where in the sky the various planets would appear, but the development of the telescope in 1608 had revealed planets either slightly ahead or slightly behind where they should have been. This was referred to as “trepidation of the spheres” probably on the assumption that the spheres appeared to be vibrating.
Redpath argues, like Peters and several others, that Donne means in these stanzas that people calculate the damage on earth as something significant, when such things as the ?moving of the earth?(Norton 1075), or earthquakes, are but nothing to the power of the two lovers? love. He continues, recognizing Donne?s comparison to his own love to ?dull sublunary lovers?, who are inferior, because they are subject to change like everything under the moon in medieval cosmology. Donne?s own love for his wife is without end like the line of a circle, or orbit. (83) This interpretation can be supported by Gjerdrum?s view in which she sees Donne?s “dull sublunary lovers? love (whose soul is sense) cannot admit absence, because it both remove those things which eliminated it ” as sole bodily attributes, which are the totality known of the love as an object. (1)
Donne?s deviation from the spiritual attraction to physical in ?A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning?, separates many critical analysis from each other. Some critics could not ignore that Donne also appreciated the loss that he would have in absence of the bond of physical togetherness with his wife. Garland, like Sinha, recognizes that Donne acknowledges that they will too miss ?eyes, lips, and hands?(Norton 176). Garland sees it as a paradox, in which she imagines Donne, hoping, as he lists her features, that they will travel with him through the separation (Garland 142; Sinha 163). However, no other critics found in my research, had any reference to this theory.
Garland also asserts that, in the first stanza, Donne creates a sexual illusion with the words ?to goe.? She states, ?the lovers, like the virtuous men, send their souls (that is to each other) into bliss by encouraging them ?to goe,? a phrase that can mean ?to experience sexual climax.? She also explains that in the second stanza there are strong sexual undertones in lines five and seven. She explains that as the couple ?melt[s]? they are ?[experiencing an] orgasm? and as they part quietly they share the sadness of parting from their ?joyes?, in reference to sexual joys (140). This view sharply contrasts the popular reading of lines five and seven. Most critics see specifically line five as the lovers? ability to expand their love, rather than separate it when they part.
Redpath points out the possibility that in line 30 there is some sexual reference by Donne. He states that in returning back to its rightful place, like Donne, the leg ?grow[s] erect.? He also recognizes that in using this term it is not Donne?s first intention to make a sexual pun. Redpath first takes the prevalent view that Donne is explaining his actual return homeward (86).
Contrast to Donne?s first use of conceit, explaining that Donne and his wife are two souls as one, the last analogy, as most authors develop it, is created by Donne?s doubt that he and his wife are capable of being one spirit, and that they may only be two. But, like Sinha, Louthan, Redpath, and many others, they see that he soon offers a counter argument that if their souls are two, then they are two feet of a compass, representing the close interrelationship between Donne and Anne. However, there are three strong arguments referring to the circle created by the compass in lines 32 and 36, introduced by Redpath. The three views are: (1) that they both refer to the completion of the circle; (2) that they both refer to the closing of the compasses; (3) that line 32 refers to the closing of the compasses, while 36 refers to the completion of the circle. Redpath and Louthan adopt the third view, while Sinha accepts the first. All of them embrace the idea that the circle is also a symbolic reference to the holy spheres (Sinha 163; Louthan 50; Redpath 85, 86)
Both Shawcross and Zunder, although their passages are simply critical abridgments of the poem at a holistic view, follow parallel to many other analyses of ?A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning?. Specifically, Shawcross holds that the poem?s message is the focus of Donne?s contrast of sublunary lovers, only capable of physical satisfaction, to his own love for his wife, two lovers that have ?achieved the transmutation of their individualities into gold through their faith in each other.? He further notes, distinguishing a psychological and philosophical emotion from the physical, that Donne recognizes that separation can only be affective if the lovers are actually in separation (61).
This is a bit more developed than Zunder?s view, however it follows suit. Zunder explains that ?A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning? is understandably a creation made under the pressure of separation to end not only the anxiety of his wife, Anne, but to also ease his own apprehension. Zunder?s view, however, does stand alone by recognizing that this poem is, as it is one of Donne?s later pieces, is a step towards a more mature way of viewing his love for his wife, as compared to other works. Through this maturity, Donne has a ?clearer idea of nature, and significance, of [their] new relationship?(43).
Other analysts hold the theme, as it is accepted by most, as the example that Donne?s view of love is something that is repeated throughout the ages. An anonymous essay found on the internet compares Donne?s theme that love can, if as strong as his is for Anne, transcend above the earthy confinements to that of a song by a modern rock band, like Led Zeppelin. This individual takes Donne?s unconcern for cataclysmic events, such as the “trepidation of the spheres” (Norton, 1075) and creates a parallel to the song ?Thank You?, which expresses that even “if the sun refused to shine” or “when mountains crumble into the sea”, the bond between the lovers cannot be broken.
For Donne’s world, the relationships between men and women were supposed to be, at the same time, both exceeding of the world in which they took place and trapping the lovers in the same physical plane; it was by no means as stylized as courtly love. The same holds true for the modern day world, creating problems for most men and women, while occasionally freeing others to truly interact in the union of two souls. The ideas from one critic continue along to another in a cycle which both reinforces older ideas and changes some of those ideas to allow the new critic to reinvent them; love, which is fully embedded in this cycle, continues to change as the humans within them change, but it will always be around, as love “makes my circle just, and makes me end where I begun” (Norton 1076).
This essay is Done, John Donne.
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