A Valediction Forbidding Mourning Revision Sheet

For A Level Students doing CCEA English Literature studying John Donne Poetry.

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John Donne Poetry Revision Sheet
Poem: A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
One of the several poems addressed to a woman by her lover about to leave on a
journey which must separate them for a considerable while
He argues that leaving his lover shouldn't be fought with high emotion as their r'ship
has transcended the limits of normal physical love
Could have been written to D's wife
Uses conceits from science to define their love (fusion of emotion and intellect)
Valediction: Farewell ­ a common type of love poem
Stanza 1 and 2: understated, quiet love
Stanza 5: Dialectic tone doesn't emerge until stanza 5. Tone rises in confidence and builds an
argument raised in previous stanza
Triumphant tone closes the poem and argument
Stanza 1:
Regular metre & rhyme scheme heighten sense of emotional control
Here, each four-line stanza is quite unadorned, with an ABAB rhyme scheme and an
iambic tetrameter meter.
Metaphysical Techniques
Conceit ­ alchemy, science, homely, geographical, mathematical
Fusion of emotion and reason
Conversational and colloquial
Builds argument using series of conceits (wit)
Unity of body and soul
Dramatic ­ setting ­ about to go on a journey
Form ­ regular stanza/rhyme scheme ­ calm assertions

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Tone ­ secure, soothing, confident
Methods Quote A02
Stanza 1 "As virtuous men pass mildly' Opening analogy of man on deathbed
away" to love poem
A virtuous man will welcome rather
than fear death
Just like Donne wishes the separation
of he and his wife to be untroubled and
Lovers realise their separation is not
the end of everything just as the man
knows death is not the end
Image of death is approp.…read more

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Also suggests their love is self
sufficient and there is no need to
demonstrate it to the rest of the
Stanza 3 "moving of th'earth brings harms Begins to use series of images to
and fears" illustrate nature of their love and why
this temporary parting should be
relatively unimportant to them
Develops argument through series of
"th'earth" conceits
People thought earthquakes were
punishment from God (terror and fear)
"Trepidation of the spheres" In ancient and medieval astronomy this
referred to the vibration of…read more

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Stanza 5 "But..." Shift in argument
"refined" Alchemy imagery extended here by use
of "refined" ­ purified
they are mutually confident that their
love is of the mind and physical
separation won't impair their r'ship
"Care less" (Platonic)
Physical love is not excluded
completely ­ care less rather than care
not links to later sexual imagery in St 8
typical metaphysical conceit - unites
body and soul / physical and spiritual
Stanza 6 "Our two souls...…read more

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union of souls compared to compass
Ref to geometrical compass used by
map-makers and explorers to plot
maps and measure distances ­
conceit ­ approp. As D is leaving to go
on voyage
D develops this argument through
"the fixed foot"
series of // bet.…read more

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Stanza 9 D builds imagery of circle from previous
stanza ­ compass draws circle
"obliquely" Indirectly ­ comes from idea that
compasses didn't move directly when
used for measuring distances on maps
­ they moved in a curve
Suggestion of infidelity by use of
"firmness" "just" oblique?
However this is countered by these
terms ­ she is stable anchor who
prevents his roaming foot from loosing
"and makes me end where I begun" its direction and therefore the circle is
Final line, describes drawing…read more

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Biographical Context
Poem written for Anne Donne by John in 1611 prior to his departure on a voyage to
Idea of closing stanza of Anne as stabilising anchor on D's "oblique" running
(potential infidelity) concurs with the charge in D following his marriage, from `Jack
Donne' to a faithful, loyal husband
Social/Historical Context
Stanza 1:
Virtuous men would die `mildly' stems from idea that men had to confront their sins
(and have them absolved by a priest) before death.…read more

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Described as one of the finest love poems in language
Joan Bennett `4 Metaphysical Poets'
"the same flame that lights the intellect warms the heart, mathematics and love
obey one principle: the binding of a circle and the union of lovers are equivalent
symbols of eternity and perfection''
"the verse form echoes its theme: the rhyme is regular throughout as is the rhythm.…read more



these notes are amazing. do you have any more on metaphysical? 

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