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CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF “A VALEDICTION: FORBIDDEN MOURNING”

A VALEDICTION: FORBIDDEN MOURNING

CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF “A VALEDICTION: FORBIDDEN MOURNING”

The poem, “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning” is one of the most significant love poems by John Donne. “Spiritual love is transcendent, metaphysical, keeping the lovers together intellectually and spiritually even though the circumstances of everyday life may separate their bodies.”

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.

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.

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. Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,

Men reckon what it did, and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

Though greater far, is innocent.

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 lady love 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.

“Thy firmness makes my circle just,

 And makes me end where I begun.”

Dr. Johnson says about this comparison “It may be doubted whether absurdity and ingenuity has the better.”   However, he considered it as the crowning example of the metaphysical poets’ “pursuit of something new and strange.”

To sum up, like a typical metaphysical poet, Donne drives home his concept of love that is very akin to neo-platonic love with witty, ingenious conceit, images and comparison. Images of death of virtuous men, earthquake, gold beaten to transparency and lastly the incomparable conceit of compass add to quaintness and ingenuity of the poem. The strength of the poem lies in its argument and the use of appropriate conceits and unique  images. Sometimes, the use of hyperbole has been made to emphasise a point. About this kind of poetry, 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.”                                                                                    (Words: 649)