Critical Analysis:The Good Morrow by John Donne.
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Critical Analysis: The Good Morrow by John Donne John Donne was born in 1572 in Elizabethan England into a devout Catholic family. A very religious man, he was persecuted for being Catholic and was not allowed to go to either Oxford or Cambridge to become a priest, so in order to achieve his ambitions he converted to Anglicanism. The priesthood inspired some extraordinary religious verse, but he is, if anything, more commonly known for his love songs and sonnets, which are marked by their diversity of moods and attitudes. Donne is said to be a metaphysical poet. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy which deals with any matter beyond that which can be located through the senses; thus time, the mind, free will, God and in this case love, are all subjects of metaphysical thought. The Good Morrow is a prime example of one of Donne's metaphysical poems. In common with other metaphysical verse, The Good Morrow has realistic settings and a metaphysical theme, or rather a theme about transcending from the physical to the metaphysical. The transformation is one concerning love; the poem is about transcending from a physical lust to a higher and refined form of love. The structure of The Good Morrow is based on three interrelated verses. In the first verse, the poet describes the childishness of the previous loves of himself and his lover.
is so powerful that it can control love of lesser things, or one could imagine that 'controls' betrays a desire for sexual control in the speaker. At the end of the verse, Donne makes a short conclusion which can be summarised as; 'what does it matter//although we live in a physical world, each possesses a world, and each is one'. This argument ends with a paradox - how can each lover have a world, and be a world? This seeming contradiction resolves itself when one realises that each lover is the other lover's world, an ironic riddle of chopped logic. In the third and last verse, the poet looks into his lover's eyes, and sees his own face reflected in it; My face in thine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest, Where can we find two better hemispheres Without sharp north, without declining west? What ever dies, was not mixed equally; If our two loves be one, or, thou and I Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die. The place of the word appears at the end of the first line clarifies the image of each person's face reflected in the other, but the word could also carry with it a suggestion of falseness, or appearance rather than reality.
This poem is the first that I have read by John Donne and it has prompted me to read more. What I like especially about Donne is the mix of rich emotions with clever use of the English language through puns, undertones, imagery and rhythm. This is something that I have never seen before in any of the other poetry we have read. What's more, analysing this poem has meant that I needed to get into the mind of a very intelligent man, and since it is very difficult to understand what is going on inside someone's head, let alone John Donne's, I've had to make many assumptions and take many different points of view and leaps of faith. To do this, I have had to read a great deal, but even knowing facts about Donne is not enough. It may be helpful to remember that he was a Catholic who became an Anglican, but it does not allow one to explain all that is mysterious about Donne, who I think is a very intellectually and emotionally puzzling man. Of course it is useful and maybe essential to know that the word Let has changed to Although, but none of these facts can help you to pinpoint what is so challenging about this poem. I think there is an inherent strangeness to The Good Morrow (much like that of J. Alfred Prufrock) that, rather than trying to puzzle over, one should learn to live with and enjoy. Gabriel Kan 3/10/03
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