Overview

“A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” is a poem by the English poet John Donne, likely written in 1611 but not published until 1633. The word valediction refers to the act of bidding someone farewell, and it’s possible that Donne addressed the poem to his wife, Anna, prior to leaving on a diplomatic trip to France. Historically, the poem has represented a flashpoint in debates about so-called “metaphysical poetry” and its use of elaborate conceits. Donne’s poem famously includes a sustained description of two lovers as a draftsman’s compass—at once separate yet connected. Critics have long argued about whether this conceit is an example of poetic excess or poetic genius.

Read a summary & analysis, an analysis of the speaker, and explanations of important quotes from “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

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