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John Donne 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning'.

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Introduction

John Donne 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning' This poem is purported to have been written in 1611, when Donne left his wife to journey to France. In terms of theme, the poem yet again deals with the immensity and permanence of the love between poet and beloved; in terms of conceits, this poem contains one of Donne's most famous conceits, that of the twin compasses in verses 7-9; however, the poem is also interesting as containing other scientific references to the craft of metallurgy and to Renaissance astronomical and metereological theory. Basically, the poem falls into three sections elaborating three different conceits, each of which provides a different metaphoric way for the beloved to view her absence from the poet, and to be consoled. The first conceit, elaborated upon in verses 1-3, is a metereological and astronomical one. It begins, in verse 1, with a comparison between departure for a journey and departure in death; in this regard, the beloved is advised to emulate a 'virtuous man' who would 'whisper to his soul to go' without melodrama or hysterics or fear, dying so imperceptibly that his friends cannot tell if he has stopped breathing or not. ...read more.

Middle

The second section of the poem shifts ground and moves to yet another conceit meant to console the beloved: here the reference is to metallurgy. In this case 'Dull sublunary lovers' are like dross metal, 'dull' and unrefined, mixed with earth and 'sense;' as a result they cannot bear physical 'absence' because 'it doth remove/Those things which elemented it,' that is, the baser elements. In human terms, the baser elements are, of course, the physical and sexual elements of love: once again, 'sublunary' love, which focuses on the physical, cannot bear absence because it has not been refined and purified; it is like a lump of mixed ores which, if the lesser ores are removed, cannot exist as it once was. However, Donne reassures his beloved that their love has been 'so much refined,' purged of all its grosser elements to such fineness that it has become a metal so perfect 'That ourselves know not what it is.' Because their love is so perfect, refined of all its grosser elements, they 'Care less eyes, lips and hands to miss,' as they are aware that their love transcends such things and is 'Inter-assured of the mind.' ...read more.

Conclusion

In this poem, therefore, Donne uses three different conceits to trebly reassure his wife of their enduring, supralunary, refined, purified, love, a love which has transcended the physical and the sexual and so can transcend physical separation. It is a love like that described in 'The Anniversary,' the love of two souls which will transcend the death of the body. This poem is celebrated for its innovative use of conceits from Renaissance science to image this love. In structural terms, this poem is written using 'long meter,' or the four by four line: four lines to a verse, with four strong stresses in each line; each verse rhymes on the first and third lines, and again on the second and fourth. This verse form, while highly straightforward, is also very soothing in its repetitive familiarity, and is an apt form chosen for a poem that is meant to console. Additionally, the straightforwardness of the form is suited to the Donne's purpose in delivering an unequivocal message of consolation, a fact which is also echoed in his threefold attempt to console the beloved. 1 ...read more.

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