A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
Written in 1611 or 1612 for his wife Anne before he left on a trip to Continental Europe, "A Valediction" is a 36-line love poem that was first published in the 1633 collection Songs and Sonnets, two years after John Donne's death. Based around the idea of two parting lovers, the poem is notable for its use of conceits and heavy allegory to describe the couple's relationship. (From Wikipedia)
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A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne
What does the title of this poem tell you about its subject? What do you think the argument of this poem will be?
Look up the definition of the word sublunary; you can select the word in the text by clicking on it (or pressing on mobile devices) to get its definition. Explain what "dull sublunary lovers' love" is.
Which of the following statements accurately describes the relationship of stanza 1 to stanza 2?
In stanza 5, the speaker claims that
In the second couplet of stanza 6, Donne uses a(n) _____________.
Which of the following describes the rhyme scheme of each stanza?
Please summarize the argument the speaker makes in this poem.
Donne uses a simile about a compass to express the relationship between the two lovers - one is the center point, fixed in place, the other is the fixed foot in the center, and the other is the foot that moves around it. The firmness of the center foot makes the circle that the outer foot draws perfect: “Thy firmness makes my circle just, / And makes me end, where I begun.” (This annotation contains an image)
The first words of stanza 5 harken back to stanza 4, and express that there is a relationship between what is said in stanza 4 and what is going to be said in stanza 5. The relationships between the stanzas in Donne's poem are important, and these relationships are often gestured at with conjunctions such as "So" in stanza 2 and "But" in stanza 5.
Keep in mind that you cannot read a poem like this the way you read a paragraph in a book or a magazine. Given the dense language of this poem, you'll want to re-read lines and stanzas as you go. If the meaning of a line isn't clear, re-read it and consider the context of the stanza and the poem. The themes and sentiments of the poem are revealed subtly, in whispers, so listen carefully as you read...