John Donne Notes

John Donne

"A Valediction:Forbidding Mourning"

What does "valediction" mean?  ____________________________________

Donn wrote this poem in 1611 as he was leaving home to go visit his mother.  This poem is to his wife to cheer her up.

Line 6.  Tear-floods & sigh-tempests are Petrarchan images (Petrarch made the sonnet popular).

Line 13.  We should not mourn because if love is more than physical, relationships continue because the soul still lives. Those whose only have the senses of the body cannot stand separation because the senses depend on the object of affection being present.

Line 21 ~ Their relationship is stretched thin but not breached or broken. It's expanded. He is leaving to go on a trip, but promises he will return.

He compares their souls to compasses. This is the image of the compass you would use in geometry, which was another popular image at the time.  The points may be far apart, but they are connected in the center.  The further apart the points are, the more the compass legs lean toward each other.  She stays put while he traces the path around, and as long as she remains firm, he'll return to the same spot he started from.

 Sonnet 10 ~
Nineteen of Donne's poems have been grouped together as the Divine Meditations.  Instead of the usual subject of the speaker's love and lust for some beloved individual, this sequence focuses on Donne's religious experience, his relationship to God

 Line 7. "Death be not proud"~ death should not be feared; you can not be killed because death is like sleeping.  We are really at rest when we die.

Line 9.  Death is controlled by fate, chance, kings, etc., which all cause death.

Line 10.  Death keeps company with unsavory things like poison, war, etc.

Lines 13-14.  There are two passages from the Bible that Donne could well have in mind as he wrote these lines.

Revelation 21:4

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more
death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the
former things are passed away.
I Corinthians 15: 54-57
  1. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
  2. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
  3. The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
  4. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus  Christ.

 Sonnet 14

He prays for God to free him from sin forcibly - beat the evil (devil?) out of him.
He needs a rough grace to overcome his sinful nature.

Line 7.  Reason should govern him, but it is fallible and has been enslaved by his passion (remember this theme from the Wife of Bath?).

Line 10.  He's "betrothed" to sin - under its power.

Lines 13-14.  He uses oxymorons to bring home his point -

The images here are very strong & sometimes hard to take.  The metaphysical poets liked such "strong lines,"  using shocking comparisons to jolt the readers.