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Poetry Analysis

(Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go/ A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning) by John Donne
by

Ciarah Williams

on 11 March 2014

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Transcript of Poetry Analysis

Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go
by: John Donne

Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go
John Donne
(1572-1631)
Born in Bread Street, London (1572)
Prosperous Roman Catholic family -anti-Catholic sentiment was rife in England
Father: John Donne - ironmonger
died in 1576 - leaving three children to be raised by their mother
Mother: Elizabeth - relative of Sir Thomas More
University of Oxford (3 years)
University of Cambridge (3 years),
did not receive a degree because he would not take the Oath of Supremacy
He studied law at Thavies Inn (1591) and Lincoln's Inn (1592)
Donne's brother, Henry, died of a fever in prison
arrested for giving sanctuary to a proscribed Catholic priest
Donne began to question his faith
wrote his first book of poems -
Satires (
1593)
Family Tree
John Donne
(1572-1631)
Joined the naval expedition against Cádiz, Spain (1596)
Joined an expedition to the Azores (1597)
The Calm
Appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton (1598)
Became a part of the Military Police and sat in Queen Elizabeth's last Parliament (1601)
Secretly married Lady Egerton's niece- seventeen-year-old Anne More- daughter of Sir George More, Lieutenant of the Tower
Donne was dismissed from his post
Sir George had Donne thrown into Fleet Prison
struggled near poverty for the next decade

John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone
1609 -Donne and his father-in-law,Sir George More, reconciled
Pseudo-Martyr
(1610) and
Ignatius his Conclave
(1611)
John Donne
(1572-1631)
1607-King James announced that Donne would receive no post or preferment from the King, unless in the church
1615 -Donne reluctantly entered the ministry
Donne's style : elaborate metaphors, religious symbolism, dramatic flair, quick wit
established him as one of the greatest preachers of the era
Anne Donne(33) died on 15 August, 1617 after giving birth to their twelfth child- a stillborn
Seven of their children survived their mother's death
Donne stopped writing love poems and wrote more religious ones
Became very ill and obsessed with the idea of death
He preached what is called his own funeral sermon-
Death's Duel
Died: March 31, 1631
Donne's monument, in his shroud, survived the Great Fire of London and can still be seen today at St. Paul's.
Theme and Interpretation
Time period: Renaissance
highly intellectualized poetry marked by bold and ingenious conceits, incongruous imagery, complexity and subtlety of thought, frequent use of paradox, and often by deliberate harshness or rigidity of expression
Theme
Eternal love and how it stretches beyond death
&
Separation from one’s beloved
Stanza 1 Interpretation
Sweetest love, I do not go,
For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show
A fitter love for me;
But since that I
Must die at last, 'tis best
To use myself in jest
Thus by feigned deaths to die.
Sweetest love, I am not leaving because I am tired of our relationship. I am not leaving because I think there is someone else better for me. I am leaving because I must die one day, and I might as well practice by faking my death - being away from you.
Stanza 2 Interpretation
Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today;
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way:
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.
Last night the sun went down, and it is back today. It has no desire or feeling or half as short of life. Do not worry about me, but know that I will return quicker than the sun because I have a better reason to return.
Stanza 3 Interpretation
O how feeble is man's power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall!
But come bad chance,
And we join to'it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
Itself o'er us to'advance.
Man's power is so feeble that if he has good luck, he cannot add another hour or recall a previous one.
But as soon as he experiences bad luck, he strengthens it, lengthens it, and allows it to rule over him.
Stanza 4 Interpretation
When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
It cannot be
That thou lov'st me, as thou say'st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
That art the best of me.
When you sigh, you do not sight air but my soul. When you weep, both kind and cruel, you weaken my life.

You cannot love me like you say you do if you waste your life crying. You would be wasting the best part of me.
Stanza 5 Interpretation
Let not thy divining heart
Forethink me any ill;
Destiny may take thy part,
And may thy fears fulfil;
But think that we
Are but turn'd aside to sleep;
They who one another keep
Alive, ne'er parted be.

Do not think of any harm that might come my way while I am gone.
Destiny might fulfill your worries.
Instead think of our time away as us turned aside while asleep.
If we keep each other's memory alive, we shall never be parted.
This man is leaving to travel around the world.

"Sweetest love, I do not go,
For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show

A fitter love for me."
This man might die while he is gone.

"But since that I must die at last, "tis best
"To use myself in jest."
He does not want her to think of any potential harm that might come his way. Rather, she should think of his departure as him just turned aside while sleep.
As long as they keep the memory of each other alive, they will never be truly parted.

"They who one another keep
Alive, ne'r parted be."
Eternal Love
Literary Technique

When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
how powerful love is
how it stretches beyond death
This oxymoron emphasizes the persona's pain
when he sees his lover crying. She needs to be with him.

Her cries are both unkind and kind.
Kind because it shows her love. Unkind because it's killing him to see her cry.
Literary Technique
Anthropomorphism:
the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to an animal, or object

"Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today; . . .

But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he."
Helps to create a strong image of how this man is "quicker" and has more reason or incentive to return .
Literary Technique
Separation from one's beloved
&
Analogy: a comparison between two things, or pairs of things, to reveal their similarities.
By doing this the persona is able to
reassure his love that he will return
reassure his love that he wants to return

The persona compares his journey to that of the sun to offer comfort.
The analogy between the persona's journey and that of the sun's depicts how long the separation between these two lovers will be. But the persona saying that he has more of a reason to return emphasizes that their love is eternal, stretching beyond death and separation.
Sweetest love, I do not go,
For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show
A fitter love for me;
But since that I
Must die at last, 'tis best
To use myself in jest
Thus by feign'd deaths to die.



Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today;
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way:
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.
O how feeble is man's power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall!
But come bad chance,
And we join to'it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
Itself o'er us to'advance.
When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
It cannot be
That thou lov'st me, as thou say'st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
That art the best of me.


Let not thy divining heart
Forethink me any ill;
Destiny may take thy part,
And may thy fears fulfil;
But think that we
Are but turn'd aside to sleep;
They who one another keep
Alive, ne'er parted be.

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Structure of Poem
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
John Donne

Both poems were written by Donne to his wife before he left for a long voyage.
Theme and Interpretation
Theme: There are two kinds of love

true love - can withstand distance and has an emotional connection

superficial/earthly love - easily falls apart and is only connected on a physical level
Stanza 1 and 2 Interpretation
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.


Virtuous men pass peacefully away, and they whisper for their souls to go. Friends surround them on their deathbeds, and when one says that the man has died, the rest cannot believe it.

Just like those virtuous men, we should separate peacefully and make no noise. There should not be an abundant amount of tears or sighs. This would alert the common people, and that would cheapen our love.
Stanza 3 and 4 Interpretation
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.
Earthquakes bring danger and fear. Men expresses confusion and panic. The shaking of the stars and planets are much greater in force, but demand less attention.

Shallow lovers' love is the like earthquake. It is only connected by earthly things that appear to the senses. It cannot stand absence because the relationship was built on physical presence.
Stanza 5 and 6 Interpretation
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.


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.
*switching back to the persona and his love
But our love is refined and pure - so precious that even we (the persona and his love) do not know what it is. We are connected by our minds and care less about missing each other's eyes and lips - the physical
Our souls are one. I (the persona) must go, but our souls will not endure a separation but an expansion, like gold. Gold when it is beat expands.
Stanza 7 and 8 Interpretation
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.

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.
We are like two legs of a compass. Even though we are separate, we are always joined. Your soul (the wife) is the part that always stays still. You makes no inclination to move unless the other leg does.

Even though you (the wife) must stay home when I leave, you lean and reach after me but will grow tall as I return.
Stanza 9 Interpretation
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.
You are still with me even when I have to journey around the world. Your faithfulness will keep me from straying. Just like a compass after a full rotation, I will end up back at the beginning - home.
Literary Device: Conceit
An unusual or startling analogy; a poetic literary device which was
common among the Metaphysical poets.
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.
The persona compares he and his love's separation to an old man on his death bed surrounded by friends.
Through the use of a conceit, Donne is able to
emphasize how personal and special the bond between the persona and his love is
set up a future comparison between the persona's love and shallow love
Compass Conceit:
emphasizes how the persona and his love are always connected despite distance
Literary Device: Hyperbole
exaggeration for effect
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
The persona is telling his love to not cry a lot because alerting others of their separation would cheapen their love.

Their love is special and true.
Literary Device
A figure of speech by which a part of something refers to the whole
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.
Eyes, lips, and hands all refer to the whole body -the physical. By the persona stating that he and his love could careless about eyes, lips, and hands, he is stating that their love is superior to that of superficial lovers.
Structure of Poem
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 ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd 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 fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' 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.
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iambic tetrameter
Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today;
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way:
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.
traditional ballad meter: iambic tetrameter
iambic trimeter
iambic dimeter
Compare/ Contrast
Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go:
The tone is more comforting
The analogies are metaphorical
Speaks of the woman as being the better part of the persona
Portrays the woman as incredibly sad
The persona reassures his love of his return.
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning:
The tone is more boastful and superior.
The analogies are metaphorical but more "startling" - the dying men
Speaks of the woman as being the "fixed foot" of the compass
The woman never cries in this poem because she is
Forbidden
Paradoxical
The persona reassures his love of his return.
Time period: Renaissance
highly intellectualized poetry marked by bold and ingenious conceits, incongruous imagery, complexity and subtlety of thought, frequent use of paradox, and often by deliberate harshness or rigidity of expression
References
Gordon, Todd. Kissel, Adam ed. "John Donne: Poems Study Guide : Summary and Analysis of "Song: Sweetest love, I do not goe"".GradeSaver, 10 June 2012 . 8 March 2014.
Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of John Donne." Luminarium.
22 June 2006. 8 March 2014. <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/donnebio.htm>
Shmoop Editorial Team. "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning: Stanza 1 Summary." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 8 Mar. 2014.
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