It is believed that Donne left for France in 1611. He gave this poem to his wife at the time of his departure. The poet advises his wife not to mourn the temporary separation, because their love remains intact despite their parting. Parting brings their souls even closer. The biographical details of the poet, however, are not essential to the appreciation of the poem. The poet has universalized a personal experience. The poem is a remarkable illustration of intellectualization of passion and has Donne’s famous conceit of compass towards the end.
The poem quietly begins with a metaphysical conceit. Virtuous people are not afraid of death. They visualize the life beyond death. So they pass away quietly. To the Elizabethans, separation is the death of the lovers. The poet believes and convinces his wife that separation strengthens love. Otherwise, separation is unimportant, even impossible. Even parting lovers don’t part. And separation is the expansion of their love. The poet asks his beloved to part quietly without creating a scene : So let us melt, and make no noise.
The word ‘melt’ has many meanings. It implies ‘separation’, ‘death’, ‘tenderness’, etc. Let there be no floods of tears and no tempests of sighs, so characteristic of the Elizabethan lovers. It would be vulgarization of their love. Love is a mystery to the world, but not to the lovers. Let this mystery not be revealed to the world.
Then the poet contrasts the physical love and spiritual love. The ordinary lovers are earthly, but spiritual lovers are divine. An earthquake causes great damage. People calculate the damage and the threat. On the other hand, the movement of heavenly bodies, though much greater, is harmless. The poet...