Thursday, 1 May 2014

A Valediction : Forbidding mourning { JOHN DONNE }

Write an essay of 300 words: Attempt a critical appreciation of John Donne’s ‘A Valediction  Forbidding Mourning’. What are your views on the metaphysical elements in the poem?

A Valediction: Forbidding mourning is a metaphysical poem written by John Donne who is the founder of metaphysical poetry in English.  The term “metaphysical” implies preoccupation with philosophy. The metaphysical poetry is distinguished by its startling images, conceits and comparisons.  Metaphysical poets see acute resemblances in things which were clearly unlike. For example in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” Donne brings out a parallel between the relationship of his and his lady’s soul to the coordinated movements of the compasses. Spiritual love is compared to the death of a holy man. Again love is compared to pure gold. The poet uses many poetic devices such as metaphor, alliteration, assonance, hyperbole and mockery of sentiments. He tells his lady love to avoid ‘tear floods and sigh tempests. Lovers are compared with clergy and laity of a church. “The Sun Rising” and “A Valediction: Forbidding mourning” are his most famous love poems.  Critics like T.S. Eliot and others have said: “Great poetry is always metaphysical born of men’s passionate thinking about life, love and death”.

The narrator goes away to France leaving his lady love for the time being. But the lover assures his lady love that their love is not an ordinary one, but spiritual love. He addresses the poem to his lady love and tells her that their love is as silent and peaceful as the death of a good man. When he dies no one knows it although they are all standing by his death bed. The death is so peaceful and sweet that his friends do not know his death.  Similarly the lovers don’t cry or make any expression of sorrow when they depart. If she weeps, it is a violation of the purity of their love to let the common man know about it.  They are the high priests of spiritual love. Tears and sorrow are forbidden for their spiritual love. Ordinary lovers cry and shout when they leave each other.

The lover tells his lady love that earthquakes destroy buildings, create natural calamities, killing thousands of people and there will be violent waves in the oceans. But the movement of the trepidation of the spheres is so great and powerful compared with the earthquake. But this movement is so silent and peaceful that it does not create any destruction. On the other hand it produces celestial music. Similarly the spiritual love between the narrator and his ladylove is very strong compared with the passive earthly love of ordinary people. They love in their senses and not in their spirit. So they need physical touch for their love. On the other hand the spiritual lovers don’t need the presence of each other. They are one in the spirit Again spiritual love is compared to pure gold and when it is hammered, it does not break, but ever expands to invisibility. Here the poet uses the poetic technique of ‘hyperbole’.

The lover tells his ladylove that they are physically two and they are compared with a pair of compasses, the one remaining fixed when the other is revolving round it always bending inward to the centre. It is the firmness of one foot that holds the other in its circle.  Similarly it is the firmness of one’s love for the other makes the circle of life complete and loyal to each other. So the lover will certainly come back to his lady love and they continue their life together.
Answer the following questions in two or three sentences
1.‘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’.      What is special about the figure of speech and bring out the beauty of the metaphor
The speaker of the poem ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’ tells his lady love that they should accept their separation silently with no tears or sighs. If they weep or sob, it would be to profane their divine love. True lovers are like high priests of the church (clergy) while ordinary lovers are compared with the members of the congregation (laity). Hyperbole is a hallmark of metaphysical poetry. Mockery of sentiments also used here. Tear is compared to flood and sigh is to tempests. Effective use of metaphors adds to the beauty of the metaphysical poem.

2. ‘Dull sublunary lovers’ love
    -Whose soul is sense- cannot admit
    Of absence, ‘cause it doth remove
    The thing which elemented it.’ - Explain     
 The poetic devices of assonance and alliteration are used in these lines taken from John Donne’s famous metaphysical poem ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’. The assonance of short ‘u’ vowel sounds in each word of the first line gives the meaning of stupidity (dullness) of ordinary lovers. They need physical attachment for their love. The word ‘absence’ is used as ‘not being present’. It means that ordinary lovers don’t get sensual (sexual) pleasures and therefore their life is very dull. Again the alliteration of ‘l’ consonant in the first line adds to the beauty of the poem.

3. ‘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’ 
 Briefly explain the poetic device used. Do you agree with Dr.Johnson’s observation that the resemblance is the result of “discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike”? These lines are taken from John Donne’s famous metaphysical poem ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’. The speaker of the poem tells his lady love that he must go away from her to France but she must remember that their souls are one in the spirit and inseparable. Their true love is compared to pure gold when hammered, does not break, but ever expands to thin air and become invisible. The comparison of true love to pure gold is quite unlike subjects. Effective metaphor is used here. Dr.Samuel Johnson the great English critic and poet observed that such comparisons in metaphysical poetry are the result of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. This is the main feature of metaphysical poetry.

4.  The metaphysical features of Donne’s poem – 1st paragraph of the essay.

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