Weeping By John Donne Essay, Research Paper
A Valediction: for Weeping by John Donne In John Donne’s “A Valediction: for Weeping,” the speakerconsoles his lover beforeleaving on a sea voyage and begs her not to cry. Crying, the speakertells his lover this poem atthe docks before he boards his ship going abroad. Donne, whopioneered (though never coinedthe term) the “metaphysical conceit” uses a spherical image as thecentral metaphor in his poem.When Donne uses irony, paradox, and hyperbole including the use ofround images such as:coins, globes, and tears he strengthens the spherical conceit. Bycomparing two “seeming”opposites like tears and love as his conceit, Donne uses thespherical image as the centralparadox in “A Valediction: Of Weeping.” Donne opens the poem with the speaker crying while talking tohis lover before hisdeparture abroad. His first spherical images are in the first stanza, and they are tears and coins: “Let me pour forth My tears before thy face whilst I stay here, For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear, And by this mintage they are something worth,” (1-4)Both the coins and his tears have “worth,” literal and figurativevalues respectively. His tears fallfrom his face because he hurts for leaving, something no amount ofcoins can pay to alleviate.Like coins being stamped out of a sheet of metal, his tears arepressed from his eyes. Becausewater reflects her image and tears are made out of water, the stampimage has a double meaningtoo. The tears equal the lover. The mintage mentioned in line fourhas an expanded meaning. Aset of pressed coins is a mintage as is the set of the speaker’stears, but the impression on the coin(the lover’s face) can also be a mintage. As the beginning of the stanza opens with a circular image, thesecond half of the stanzaincludes even more circular images: “For thus they be Pregnant of thee; Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more– When a tear falls, that Thou falls which it bore, So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore.” (5-9)First, the speaker says the tears, because they bear the lover’s face, are pregnant of her (a sick,but round image used for comparison). The fruit and the emblem areround images describingtheir tears, the emblem symbolizes both the literal round image andthe lover’s face (the tearbears her “emblem” or face). As the tear bearing her image falls,the speaker fears the ending oftheir love if she cries, as the speaker states: “So thou and I arenothing then, when on a diverseshore” (9). In the second stanza, the speaker tries to convince herthat they are still together, evenwhen they are separated, and begs her not to weep. The second stanza opens with a ball image forming out of nothinginto a globe. A workercan take “a round ball . . .and quickly make that, which was nothing,all” (12). The globe andtheir love represent all, because the globe represents all of theentire world, where as, the loveencompasses all of their individual worlds or spheres. They, thelovers, have their own worlds,and like in “The Good Morrow” their two worlds become one, where thepower of love binds the
two hemispheres (in “The Good Morrow”) or globes (in “A Valediction:Of Weeping”). Thespeaker goes on to compare their love to the globe in the rest of thestanza: “So doth each tear Which thee doth wear, A globe, yea world, by that impression grow, Till thy tears mixed with mine do overflow This world; waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolv d so.” (14-18)Both of their tears flow into the same waters, and therefore are one. The speaker’s attitude ishypercritical during this stanza because he begs her not to cry, buthe still weeps as he proves inthe line “Till thy tears mixed with mine do overflow” (16). Byloving each other they becomeone. Donne used a flea to “mingle” the blood of the speaker and hislove in “The Flea,” joiningtheir bodily fluids and therefore they are one. The lover’s tearsflood the speaker’s world and/orheaven. The second and third stanzas are both pleas from the speakerto his lover to stop hercrying, for it destroys their worlds (which is the same world). In the third stanza the speaker uses more round images, the”spherical conceit,” bybringing the moon into his extended metaphor. By describing theirlove as “more than moon”(19), he promotes their love to a non-earthly or “holy” love (likethe “canonized” love in “TheCanonization”). They are above the human world in the celestialspheres. By placing the line”Draw not up seas to drown me in thy sphere” (20), he is in “hersphere” where her tears drownhim, and the moon by controlling the rising tide drowns him. Insteadof all the negativeconnotations (including many references to dying) associated withleaving, he beckons her tostop trying to turn the sea into a wild rage: “. . . but forbear/ Toteach the sea what it may do toosoon.” (20-21). In the conclusion of the third stanza Donne comparessighs to the wind on thesea as he does in “The Canonization” and “A Valediction: ForbiddingMourning.” The line,”Since thou and I sigh one another’s breath,” (25) further provesthat they live in the same world,where they cry into the same seas and breath the same breath. Hebegs his lover not to cry orsigh, because “Whoe’er sighs most is cruelest, and hastes the other’sdeath.” (26) As they sigh,their sighs create wind which upsets the water. The rough water, onwhich the speaker is sailing,could drown him. Donne’s mastery of comparison allows him to create an in-depthmetaphor comparingspherical images to two lover’s love. He uses some of the sameimages as he does in his otherpoems for example: holy love and tears in “The Canonization,” spheresin “A Valediction:Forbidding Mourning” and “The Sun Rising,” and two worlds becomingone in “The Good-Morrow” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” Also in the other valediction poem Donneincludes the line “No tear floods, nor sigh tempest move.” (6) Thisidea is mentioned in “AValediction: Of Weeping” too. In The New Princeton Encyclopedia ofPoetry and Poetics, theauthors, Alex Preminger and T.F. Brogan state in their definition ofMetaphysical poetry thatmetaphysical poets “[favor] a kind of imagery which requires themeditation of the intellect forfull comprehension, metaphysical poetry shows relatively no interestin sensuous imagery.”(767) Because Donne uses the simple round images to symbolize adeeper meaning, he has usedthe “metaphysical conceit” coupled with metaphor and paradox tocreate a complex love poem.