Valediction Forbidding Mourning by John Donne Understanding Term Paper

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Understanding and analyzing Donne's poetry involves an appreciation of his particular literary style. His poetry is usually known as "metaphysical" due to the use of conceits. Conceits are extended metaphors which are a complex form of the metaphor. A metaphor is a forced comparison between two things that are usually different or unlike. Donne's poetry is also characterized by the use of argument and logic. This is particularly the case with the poem under discussion: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.

The central argument that runs throughout the poem is that while the poet or protagonist is going to be separated from his mistress or lover, their love will endure his departure. The entire poem is an elaborate proof that physical separation is not final and that true love cannot be changed, altered or destroyed by physical distance. In order to prove this point the poet links the concept of love to that of the soul. The soul is more permanent than the body. Therefore love can endure separation if it is similar to the soul. The poem is a series of logical proofs of this argument beginning with the idea of the most extreme form of separation: namely death.

In the very first stanza the poem introduces the idea of the separation of the body and the soul. This is an attempt to define and explain the quality of the love that the protagonist has for his mistress.

As virtuous men pass mildly away,

And whisper to their souls to go

This central concept of the separation of the body and soul is used throughout the poem as an argument for the permanence of love. The poet states that while body and soul are separated at death the soul is permanent and does not need the body to exist eternally.
This central concept of body soul division is an important part of the argument that must be accepted for the rest of the poem to work logically. This central argument is expressed in the stanza beginning on line 21.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,

Though I must go, endure not yet A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to aery thinness beat.

The poet argues that the lover souls are intertwined and are "one." This means that the soul unlike the body does not die but is eternal. This therefore implies that their love is also eternal and consequently cannot be harmed by death or separation.

Following from this argument, the poet states that his departure from his love is not a "breach" or a destruction of the relationship but rather an "expansion" of their love. The metaphor that he uses to describe the enduring quality of their love is the quality of gold which can be extended in thin layers without losing any of its inherent value. By implication this means that although they may be separated, their love will still be retained. Previously the poet has used other metaphors to prepare for this central idea. For example the use of "melt" in stanza two suggests that their love or relationship is like….....

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