Donne’s Poetry

by: John Donne

“A Valediction: forbidding Mourning”

Summary “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning”

Like many of Donne’s love poems (including “The Sun Rising” and “The Canonization”), “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning” creates a dichotomy between the common love of the everyday world and the uncommon love of the speaker. Here, the speaker claims that to tell “the laity,” or the common people, of his love would be to profane its sacred nature, and he is clearly contemptuous of the dull sublunary love of other lovers. The effect of this dichotomy is to create a kind of emotional aristocracy that is similar in form to the political aristocracy with which Donne has had painfully bad luck throughout his life and which he commented upon in poems, such as “The Canonization”: This emotional aristocracy is similar in form to the political one but utterly opposed to it in spirit. Few in number are the emotional aristocrats who have access to the spiritual love of the spheres and the compass; throughout all of Donne’s writing, the membership of this elite never includes more than the speaker and his lover—or at the most, the speaker, his lover, and the reader of the poem, who is called upon to sympathize with Donne’s romantic plight.

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