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John Donne

―A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning‖


A farewell or a goodbye

Stanza 1

As virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say,

"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

Introduction of a simile

1 st half of the simile is presented Comparing the death of virtuous men to something


Death of Virtuous Men Mild

• • Do not make it public

• ―Mildly away‖ • ―whisper‖

Stanza 2

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

Completion of Simile

Comparing the death of virtuous men to the speaker and his wife’s separation.

Virtuous men die peacefully and silently • No ―tear-floods‖ ― sigh-tempest move‖


Describes how they should separate They must part but their love is stronger, sacred • ―melt‖

• ―make no noise‖

Religious Imagery

Laity Indicates their love is of a spiritual nature


Profanation Profane Irreverent Irreligious Disrespectful

It would be profane to ―tell the laity of

our love‖ • Would they not understand

Stanza 3

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.

Stanza 3

When they separate, they shake the earth with their sorrows

Lovers are all physical

Cannot separate without losing the the sensation that sustains their love


» Not complementary

Stanza 4

Dull sublunary lovers' love Whose soul is sensecannot admit Of absence, 'cause it doth remove The thing which elemented it.

Stanza 4

Continues his discussion of the laity Suggests their souls are centered a deeper connection Their relationships are defined by physical presence If absence occurs, the relationship is eliminated

  • - A perfect circle of love

Stanza 4 • Vocabulary • Dull - Boring • Sublunary - Between the moon and earth;
Stanza 4
• Vocabulary
• Sublunary
Between the moon and earth; worldly
The laity of love is of the earth, while their love is
  • - Not complementary

Stanza 5

But we by a love so much refined,

That ourselves know not what it is, Inter-assurèd of the mind, Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Change in perspective

Instead of talking about the sacredness of their love, he now begins to define his love.

Our love is not defined by the senses, therefore our love is not affected by absence.



  • - eyes, lips, hands

Mental Imagery

  • - Refined

  • - Purified

Stanza 6

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.


A seemingly contradictory statement that presents a profound truth

- Two souls are one

Continuation of metal imagery

Expansion Gold

Aery thinness beat

Gold leaf

  • - gold that is beaten out into very thin sheets and

used for gilding and lettering

  • - they are not enduring a breach rather

experiencing an ―expansion‖

Stanza 7

If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two ; Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show To move, but doth, if th' other do.


An extended metaphor

- Compares love to legs of a compass One point remains fixed and the other circles it

They are a pair of compasses two separate arms joined at the center to create a perfect circle, like their love

Stanza 8

And though it in the centre sit,

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

As the other foot moves, the center foot leans after it

Stanza 9

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.

The center foot is responsible for making the circle perfect

A perfect circle has no beginning and no end

Causes him to return home