An Explication of “a Valediction: Forbidden Mourning”

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“A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning” is a poem about a couple on the eve of their separation. The speaker is trying to convince his lady to accept his departure by describing love as something that transcends the physical and therefore can endure or even grow through separation. John Donne makes three main points throughout the poem. He informs the reader that the love he and his partner share is beyond a normal love, that their love is strengthened in absence, and that he compares their love to twin compasses. In the first stanza, the speaker uses a simile to compare his parting from his lover to the parting of a soul from a virtuous man at death, “virtuous men pass mildly away” (line 1) because the virtue in their lives will give them glory in the afterlife and so being they die in peace, without fear. In the second stanza, the speaker uses another simile to reassures his idea of a peaceful and quiet separation, “So let us melt, and make no noise” (line 5). The idea given to us is that they should not display their love, for it is private and intimate. That idea is so strong that he compares the exposure of their sacred love to profanation, just like a priest revealing the mysteries of their faith to “the laity” (line 8), meaning, to ordinary people. In the third stanza, the speaker refers again to the unrefined love of ordinary people in contrast with the love between him and his lady. The upheavals in the lives of ordinary lovers on Earth are like earthquakes (“Moving of th’earth”) that brings “harms and fear” (line 9). In contrast, a more refined love such as the speakers is above the reach of earthly upheavals, free of disturbance. In the fourth stanza, earth-bound lovers are caught up in the physical presence of the other person, which like all material things in this “sublunary lovers’ love”, is subjected to change and decay (line 13). The speaker, once again, indicates that his love is beyond a normal love through this metaphorical comparison (“dull...
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