John Donnes poem A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning uses many metaphors and allusions to show the love between the author and his significant other. Although the narrator is leaving, he believes their love is strong enough to withstand the separation. He then begins to compare their love to various symbolic things. In John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, his many metaphors and allusions show the power of love and how strong it actually is.
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In the beginning of Donne’s poem, the speaker is explaining that he is soon going to be separated from his lover. Before he leaves, he tells her his leaving should not be a time for mourning and sadness. He then tries to make things better by comparing their love to various things such as a noble man’s death, a drawing compass, and the planets. He implies that death should not be feared but be accepted with little sadness. The narrator wants his love to wait for him until his return, and he states their love is too strong not to endure the separation. He explains that their love goes beyond physical love, and that they have a spiritual love that goes beyond the material world and what their bodies can endure.
He believes although he is leaving, their souls are still one, and the couple will now experience “expansion”. Expansion can be defined as the act of increasing in size or volume. The narrator compares this to the way gold can be stretched by beating. He believes the one soul they have will stretch, and it will take the place of the distance between the two. The narrator also uses another example such as the compass.
A compass shows a fixed point and one that moves in relation to the north pole. The compass is used to show that when the two are separated his love is the fixed foot on the compass, and he is the foot that moves. The narrator then says, “Thy firmness makes my circle just, and makes me end, where I began.” He compares his soul and the soul of his love to a “twin-compass”. Compasses assist sailors in navigating the ocean, and metaphorically they help the two lovers remain linked no matter what the distance. On the compass, no matter how many times the moving foot goes around the circle, the two legs are eventually joined again.
The first four lines of the poem suggest that one’s soul is only part of the body until death when it “goes”. The author using the word “whisper”, indicates that the soul and the body can communicate with each other. One of the most important parts of the poem is the separation of the body and soul. The narrator believes that even death cannot separate his lover and himself because they share the same soul. This needs to be accepted for Donne’s point to be proven and by the line “Whilst some of their sad friends do say. The breath goes now, and some say, No”. This shows that not all “friends” agree with the narrator’s point of view.
The metaphor of an earthquake in line nine and the celestial spheres in line eleven contribute to the understanding of his loving relationship. Donne uses the lines “Moving of thi Earth” and “trepidation of the spheres” to explain how two different huge events can bring harm and fear or innocence. He uses these two events to show the contrast between two bodies and two souls of those who are in love.
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Donne concludes with two souls cannot be separated like two bodies can. Therefore, if the two lovers’ bodies are separated by great distance they will be like the compass mentioned earlier in the poem. The points on the compass are wide, but the handle always joins the two together. Throughout the poem Donne argues that although the couple is physically separated they are connected by the soul. Therefore, the distance between the two lovers is insignificant. Although they are spread apart they are not broken. The two still share a strong connection.
John Donne uses the whole poem to make his point. He first says that when one passes, the soul separated from the body. He then asserts that two souls mix when two people are in love. They become one, and even death cannot break this bond. He uses the compass to demonstrate this point. By making these points, the narrator is showing his love not to be upset about his leaving. He states he is the “moving foot” on the compass and has no choice but to leave. However, the compass always makes a circle and he will always find a way back to his love. Even though the separation is temporary, it is very emotional and Donne feels the pain of the separation.
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