Tense for a Reason

July 28, 2007

One of My Favorite Things (Post #8)

Filed under: English Teacher Stuff — Tense @ 11:30 am

Kizz suggested that I post some of my favorite poems and talk a little bit about them. Yet another excellent idea, so here we go.

A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING.
by John Donne

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.”

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
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing 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 aery 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 centre 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.


Source:
Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 51-52.

Not many people like the metaphysical poets, as their poems are full of difficult and long-winded metaphors, but theirs are some of my favorites. This is one of the most beautiful love poems ever written, in my humble English teacher’s opinion. The speaker of the poem is going away, and he tells his lover not to be sad, for theirs is a love unlike any out there. Theirs is not lust, it transcends beyond that; their souls and minds are connected. My favorite part of the poem is the metaphor at the end, comparing their love to a compass.  When one leg of the compass moves, the other leans toward it.  And the leg that has moved always comes back to the center, where the other leg has remained.  It’s such a beautiful image of connectedness, and it makes me think of what good marriages should strive to be.

Alrighty then, I’m sure I’ll have more geeky English teacher stuff for y’all later. I’m sure you’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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3 Comments »

  1. Oh now I read that as one lover dying and yet the connection would still live on in that wonderful compass image.

    Comment by Kizz — July 28, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  2. Many people read it that way. That’s what’s great about poetry; you can interpret it a lot of different ways.

    Comment by Tense — July 28, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  3. When I was in High School I read this poem and decided I hated metaphysical poets… but when I re-read it in college I realized all the hidden meaning in it and came to appreciate it a whole lot more.

    Comment by abby — July 28, 2007 @ 1:39 pm


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