John Donne: A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning

John Donne is somewhat of a paradox. On one hand we have Donne the cleric; a devoutly religious man that wrote the Holy Sonnets and “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness. And on the other the risque Donne of “The Flea;” an elaborate and (for the time at least) sexually charged pick-up line.

“A Valediction” falls more in the the first camp. A metaphysical love letter to his wife, “Valediction” grounds the philosophical question of time, space, and relationships in the very real notion of a revolving compass; the very nature of his and his wife’s relationship, Donne posits, allows them to remain connected no matter the distance that separates them.

A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning

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.

Curious about the what poems have come before? Check out the original National Poetry Month post for a handy list of them all!

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