A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

by John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Summary of A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

  • Popularity of “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”: Written by John Donne, a famous metaphysical poet, this poem is a well-known love poem in English literature. It was first published in 1675 in the fourth edition of Life of Donne. The poem appreciates the beauty of spiritual love. Donne has painted a vivid picture of his eternal bond that keeps him attached with his beloved even when they are apart. The popularity of the poem lies in the fact that it represents love in its most pure form.
  • “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning “As a Representation of Spiritual Love”: The poet, very artistically, draws a picture of this theme. He paints this picture through intense emotions and pure feelings. He says that he is going to part with his beloved, but they should not mourn this short gap. To him, mourning and crying will profane their sacred love. According to the poet, earthly lovers fear the separation because it may affect their affection. However, Donne and his beloved love each other spiritually as well as physically. They are least bothered about the separation. Their two souls, being one, will always be united even when their bodies are apart. Therefore, mourning is inappropriate when souls are attached for good. However, what enchants the reader is the metaphorical comparison he draws to show his unbound love for his beloved.
  • Major Themes inA Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”: Love, separation, and acceptance are the significant themes given in the poem. The poem is primarily concerned with the love of the speaker with his significant other. Though they are going to part due to circumstances, yet their love will remain pure and true. He develops these themes by comparing his love with the legs of a mathematical compass to show that they are two separate entities and yet connected and whole. He further supports his ideas by crafting many metaphors to explain that their love is not limited to physical attraction. It rather rests in their souls. Therefore, sadness, tears, and mourning are not appropriate for them.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”

literary devices are used to bring richness and clarity to the texts. The writers and poets use them to make their poem or prose texts appealing and meaningful. Donne has also used some literary devices in this poem to show the exact nature of his love. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /f/ in “Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show” and /m/ sound in “And makes me end where I begun”.
  2. Metaphysical Conceit: Metaphysical conceit is a complex, and often a lofty literary device that makes a far-stretched comparison between a spiritual aspect of a person and a physical thing in the world. Donne has used a metaphysical conceit in stanzas seven to nine where he compares his spiritual and holy love with the hands of a compass.
  3. Simile: A simile is a device used to compare an object or a person with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Donne has used simile in the last line of the sixth stanza where it is stated as “Like gold to airy thinness beat.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as /s/ sound in “Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. Donne has used visual imagery to convey his idea of holy love such as, “As virtuous men pass mildly away”,” Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss” and “As stiff twin compasses are two.”
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings.  “The compass” and “the spheres” are the symbols of love.
  7. Metaphor: Donne has used extended metaphors in this poem to illustrate the nature of holy love. The first is used in the first stanza where he compares separation from his wife with the soul of a worthy man when he dies. The second example is given in the sixth line where it is stated as, “No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move.” He compares tears and sighs to a tempest.  The third example is found in the sixth stanza where he compares his love with the hands of the compass that work together and follow each other.
  8. Paradox: A paradox is a statement that may seem contradictory yet can be true, or at least makes sense. He has used this device by explaining that though their souls are one, they are two separate beings. It means that their souls will always be together even when they are apart.

The literary analysis shows that Donne has exercised his expertise to show the true nature of his love and his intense feelings.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. These are nine stanzas in this poem with four lines in each stanza.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues throughout the poem.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the poem melodious. End rhyme occurs within the second and third lines and again within the second and fourth lines. The rhyming words are, “away”, “say”, “go” and “now.”
  5. Iambic Tetrameter: Iambic tetrameter is a meter in which there are four iambs per line. The poem comprises iambic tetrameter such as, “So let us melt and make no noise.”

Quotes to be Used

These lines can be used in a speech when talking about the momentous departure of souls. These could also be used in religious sermons to illustrate the peaceful end of a virtuous man.

“As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No.”