3A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne Parting is all we know of heaven, And all we need of hell. —Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)
4A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne “Farewell, My Love”The emotional goodbye scene is a common fixture in film and literature.What are some famous goodbye scenes you have read or watched? What makes them so memorable?
5A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne The speaker in this poem must depart from his beloved. He asks her to be strong and to behave with quiet dignity as they part.“like gold to airy thinness”Donne uses elegant imagery and figures of speech to express what a strong and complete union these two people have.“as stiff twin compasses”[End of Section]
6A lover’s tears are newly minted coins. A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Literary Focus: Metaphysical ConceitsMetaphysical conceit—a complex and clever figure of speech that makes a surprising comparison between two dissimilar thingsLovers are holy saints.A lover’s tears are newly minted coins.A man is a world.
7A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Literary Focus: Metaphysical Conceits The metaphysical poets used conceits to conduct analytical investigations of love and life.Try to figure out what two things are being compared in this stanza from another of Donne’s poems:When thou wilt swim in that live bath, Each fish, which every channel hath, Will amorously to thee swim, Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.—John Donne, from “The Bait”
8A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Literary Focus: Metaphysical Conceits “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” contains one of the most famous of all metaphysical conceits:The speaker and his beloved are compared to the two prongs of a compass.Possible responses: Maybe one person is like the leg of the compass that stays in the center, and the other is the one that moves outward into the world, and makes circles. (Circles are a symbol for holy union between two people.) The two prongs are always connected at the top of the compass, even when the tips are placed far from one another, so distance does not tear the two people apart.Can you think of any ways in which a husband and wife might be like a compass?[End of Section]
10A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Quickwrite Make the ConnectionThis poem is typical of Donne’s work in that it is set on a particular dramatic occasion. The speaker, a man about to take a long journey, says goodbye (“valediction”) to the woman he loves, telling her not to cry or feel sad (“forbidding mourning”).If you were leaving someone you love for a long time, what would you say to him or her? If you were being left behind, what would you want to hear? Quickwrite your thoughts.[End of Section]
12A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Background According to the biographer Izaak Walton, Donne wrote this poem for his wife when he left for a diplomatic mission to France. She urged him not to go because she was pregnant and unwell, but he felt obligated to the mission’s leader, Sir Robert Drury.
13A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Background Two days after arriving in Paris, Donne had a vision:“I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms.”A messenger sent back to England returned with the news that “Mrs. Donne after a long and dangerous labor had been delivered of a dead child” on the very day Donne had the vision.[End of Section]
15A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Meet the Writer John Donne’s (1572—1631) ambition was to be part of the queen’s government. He studied at Oxford and then became a law student in London. A friend described Donne as “a great visitor of ladies, a great frequenter of plays, a great writer of conceited [metaphorical] verses.”More About the Writer[End of Section]