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Valediction Forbidding Mourning Essay Research Paper ValedictionForbidding

Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Essay, Research Paper Valediction:Forbidding Mourning Although the subject matter of A Valediction: Forbidding

Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Essay, Research Paper

Valediction:Forbidding Mourning

Although the subject matter of A Valediction: Forbidding

Mourning could be applied to any couple pending separation, John Donne wrote his poem for his

wife on the eve of his departure for France in 1611.In the poem, the speaker pleads with his lady

to accept his departure. The speaker defines and celebrates a love that transcends the physical

and can therefore endure and even grow through separation. In arguing against mourning and

emotional upheaval, Donne uses a series of bold and unexpected comparisons for the love

between the speaker and his lady. Donne makes his first surprising analogy in the first stanza

when he compares the impending separation of the lovers to death. The speaker compares his

parting from his lover to the parting of the soul from a virtuous man at death. According to the

speaker, “virtuous men pass mildly away” (line 1) because the virtue in their lives has assured

them of glory and reward in the afterlife; hence, they die in peace without fear and emotion. He

suggests that the separation of the lovers be like this separation caused by death. In the second

stanza the speaker furthers his comparison for a peaceful separation. “So let us melt, and make

no noise” (line 5) refers to the melting of gold by a goldsmith or alchemist. When gold is melted

it does not sputter and is therefore quiet. The speaker and his love should not display their

private, intimate love as “tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move” (line 6). The speaker thinks that

it would be a “profanation” (line 7) to reveal the sacred love he shares with his lady. It would be

similar to priests revealing the mysteries of their faith to “the laity” (line 8), that is, to ordinary

people. The loud display of grief upon separation would therefore desecrate the sacred love of

the speaker and his lady to the less elevated love of ordinary people. The second stanza

introduces another category of startling comparative images, referring to the motions or changes

of the earth and spheres. Donne’s contemporaries believed that the heavens were

perfect(reflecting the perfection of God). Everything “sublunary”– below the moon, on this earth

– was imperfect, subject to decay and death. Furthermore, the planets moving in orbit around the

earth in the geocentric, earth-centred Ptolemaic view of the universe were attached to spheres of

crystal that often moved or shook (Damrosch et al. 238-9). In line 6, the “tear-floods” and

“sigh-tempests move” refers to the moving of the earth. In the third stanza, the speaker again

refers to the unrefined love of ordinary people in contrast with the love between he and his lady.

The upheavals in the lives of ordinary lovers on earth are earthquakes (“Moving of th’earth”)

that bring “harms and fears” (line 9). In contrast, in a more refined love such as that between the

speaker and his lady, any disturbance is above the reach of such earthly upheavals. It is like the

far-off trembling in the heavens. It is as if their love resided in the heavens, among the crystal

spheres of the Ptolemaic universe. Even when there is “trepidation” or trembling of the spheres,

it is “innocent” — it will cause no harm or damage in the world below (lines 11-12). Donne

continues to refer to the Ptolemaic universe in the fourth and fifth stanzas. In the fourth stanza,

ordinary earth-bound lovers are caught up in the physical presence of the other person, which

like all material things in this “sublunary” sphere below the moon, is subject to change and

decay (line 13). Their “soul is sense” and “cannot admit absense” (lines 14-15) because the only

way to express their love is through their five senses. Their relationship depends on the physical

act of love, which cannot occur in the absense of each other. The speaker explains that the

refined love between he and his love doesn’t need the presence of the physical body because it is

“Inter-assured of the mind” (line 19). The speaker and his lady are connected at the soul and are

therefore not really separated. In the sixth stanza, Donne again compares love to gold. Pure gold

can be beaten into a layer of the thinnest gold leaf that stretches incredibly far without breaking.

The speaker explains here that since the love between he and his wife is pure and precious like

gold, it can also be expanded and stretched without a “breach” (line 23). Here, the speaker

means that although he will be far away, the love between he and his lady will not break because

it is so pure. Donne’s most famous and unusual comparison starts in the seventh stanza and

concludes his poem when he compares the love between he and his wife to “stiff twin

compasses” (line 26). The twin compasses are described as two only in the sense that there are

two legs joined permanently at the top. Here Donne is refering to the mathematical instrument

used in geometry. One leg, “the fixed foot” (line 27), is planted firmly in the centre. The other

“travels,” describing a perfect circle, returning to its point of origin. The “fixed foot” of the

centre foot “leans and harkens” after the other that “far doth roam” (25-30). The speaker

explains that the centre foot (the person who stays at home) makes sure the absent lover comes

back to form a complete circle because of its firmness. In the last stanza, the speaker explains

that the firmness of the love of his lady will make him come back to where he began.

Furthermore, the circle created by the journey of the compass was the symbol of perfection in

Donne’s time because just like God and eternity, it has no beginning and no end. This use of the

circle in Donne’s poem suggests the perfection of the love between he and his wife. In A

Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, Donne describes a most perfect and unchangeable love

between two people. Throughout the poem he skillfully compares the love of the speaker and his

lady to things that seem completely different to the love between them. Whether Donne wrote

his poem for his wife or just touched a universal theme, the huge apparent differences bring the

mortal love between the speaker and his lady to a level of perfection above earthly faults.

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