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Metaphysical Conciets in Valediction: A Forbidden Mourning

Uploaded by cheetah on Mar 04, 2002

John Donne uses three metaphysical conceits to successfully convince his love of the transcendent nature of their relationship.

His first conceit compares their great love to the moving of celestial bodies above the moon. Donne juxtaposes this metaphor with the “moving of th’ earth” in order to emphasize how phenomenal their love is. He states that even though earthquakes “[bring] harms and fears”, the much greater “trepidation of the the spheres... is innocent” This conceit reveals the nature of two contrasting types of love: earthly lust and the transcendent bond between him and his wife. The one dimensional sensual love will be shaken and demolished by change and movement of the two partners. Conversely, the love Donne shares with his partner will not be rattled by his departure because it is far too pure.

This pure and precious attraction is compared to gold in Donne’s second conceit. Like the highest quality gold, their relationship is “so much refined that [they] know not what it is”. They do, however, understand that their’s is a love “inter-assuréd of the mind” and could “care less [about] eyes, lips, and hands”. Because their relationship is not founded on the physical aspects of each other, Donne’s leaving will not force their love to “endure... a breach”. Their two souls are one, and like “gold to airy thinness beat”, their souls will “[expand]” as Donne moves farther away.

In the final conceit, a vividly described compass is compared to their two souls. In order to further convince his wife, Donne explains that their love will remain intact even if their souls are not one. He declares that “if they are two, they are two so as stiff twin compasses are two”. Their souls are identical, and although separate, they are connected at the top. “[His wife’s] soul [is] the fixed foot” while he is the foot that “far doth roam”. While his wife must stay in one place, she “leans and hearkens after [Donne]”, “[growing]erect as [he] comes home”. Through all the movement, these two souls remain joined at the top of the compass, symbolic of their transcendent union. Only the bottom of the feet are far apart, symbolizing that their separation is only earthly and physical. Donne closes by telling his wife that “[her] firmness makes [his] circle just, and makes [him] end, where [he] begun”, powerfully illustrating the depth of their relationship.

Donne’s metaphysical conceits allowed his wife...

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Uploaded by:   cheetah

Date:   03/04/2002

Category:   Poetry

Length:   2 pages (420 words)

Views:   1288

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