A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning (1611) | Analysis

A valediction: Forbidding Mourning
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A valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men passe mildly’ away

And whisper to their soules, to goe,

Whilst some of their sad friends doe say,

The breath goes now, and some say, no:


So let us melt, and make no noise,

No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,

‘Twere prophanation of our joys

To tell the layetie our love.


Moving of th’ earth brings harmes and feares,

Men reckon what it did and meant,

But trepidation of the spheares,

Though greater farre, is innocent.


Dull sublunary lovers love

(Whose soule is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

Those things which elemented it.


But we by’a love, so much refine’d,

That our selves know not what it is,

Inter-assured of the mind,

Care lesse, eyes, lips, and hands to misse,


Our two soules, therefore, which are one,

Though I must goe, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to ayery thinnesse beate.


If they be two, they are two so

As stiffe twin compasses are two,

Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if the’ other doe.


And though it in center sit,

Yet when the other far doth rome,

It leanes, and hearkens after it,

And grows erect, as that comes home.


Such wilt thou be to mee, who must

Like th, other foot, obliquely runne;

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And make me end, where I begunne.



A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is one of the best poems written  in 1611 by John Donne, an English poet, scholar, and greatest love poet in the English language. . The use of compass as a conceit makes this poem more fascinating. The poem is addressed to ‘his wife’, Annie Moore. Valediction means farewell.

Poet was actually departing for France with his friend Sir Robert Drury. The poet has written this poem while taking farewell from his wife and so advising her wife not to mourn at this moment. In this poet talked about the love which both he and his wife share. A contrast between earthly love and spiritual love has shown in this poem. Poet just tried to highlight thesuperiority of spiritual love’ throughout the poem.


In the very first line, poet starts with talking about the ‘noble people’ who don’t afraid of death. They pass away ‘gently’ and ‘quietly’. Without crying and mourning, they ask their soul to depart from this world. They choose to die willingly and gladly because; they had already spent a virtuous life. While some of their friends wish some more days for them or, some has wished for a so-called immortal life.

So, like virtuous people, let us (poet and his wife) separate from each-other without making any noise about it. Neither raise any flood of tears nor show any grief about the separation because it will be the violation of our love to tell the world at large, as our love is something ‘sacred’ and we must not profane it. So, let it all pass quietly.

Moving to the earth, sometimes nature takes revenge through some disasters like; earthquake brings harm and fear with causing much damage. Men calculate what damage it actually caused and what greater damage was possible for it. But the movement or agitation caused in the spheres, though much greater, but seems ‘innocent’ or ‘harmless’ and cause no damage, even people are not found afraid of it, because they were completely unaware of it.

People whose love is carnal’, are dull or insensitive to spiritual love, and so, cannot able to endure the absence of their ‘lover’. They are just restricted only to the senses; physical love. And so, the absence removes the physical self of the beloved on which their love is based. Basically, they lose the physical connection existed between each-other for which they once came closer, when any of them is absent.

But the love we do from each-other is ‘so refined’ that even we ourselves do not understand its real nature. We are so sure of each-other’s mind (; and soul) that even physical self, eyes, ears, lips, hands, etc.; does not matter to us. Our love is spiritually connected that it does not affected by the physical absence of each-other.

Therefore, we, the two souls are fused into one because of the love we possess. And though, even if one among us has to go away, our souls would not be separated. Our love will easily endure this separation and not yet breach but expand; expand like gold, when beaten, does not break but expand wider and wider and become thin and unsubstantial like air itself.

If our souls are two, they are like the two strong feet of ‘compass’ which appear to be separated but in actual they are united when one notice at the top. Your soul is ‘the fixed (foot) one’, seems not moving but it does in reality if the other (poet’s foot) do move.

Though as the fixed foot remains at the center, so, also my beloved, you stay at home when I am travelling or on a journey. But it, the fixed foot, leans and follows the other foot’s calls when it moves and grows erect and unites with the moving foot when it returns the starting point after completing a circle. Similarly, my going away would be like the moving of the foot of a compass, and we would be united when I return home.

The last stanza written by poet is highly dedicated to his wife;

Exactly the same way you, my beloved, are for me, who stays at a fixed place (; home) just like the fixed foot of a compass and the moving one is me who is travelling obliquely. It is your loyalty which keeps me loyal; as well, and enables me to draw the ‘perfect circle’ and makes me to return the place from where I began.

Similarly, it is your love and faithfulness which would enable me to perform my journey successful and then return home.



“The unique love between poet and his wife which is beyond the physical things, which the true lovers possess even when they are physically separated”.

Basically, by using his scholastic learning and wit, he tried to spread awareness regarding his knowledge related to science, spirituality and so many things as can be seen in the poem.


Metaphysical Conceit Conceit is an instrument through which a metaphysical poet reveals his wit. It is just a far-fetched comparison between two dissimilar things.


For Example – Poet in this particular poem compared his and his wife’s soul with the two feet of compass.

Metaphor a word or expression denotes one kind of thing to a distinctly different kind of thing and without asserting any comparison.

For Example –

In the very first stanza poet compared the pain of separation between two of then with the death of virtuous men who don’t cry on their death.

Next in the seventh stanza, he compared both of their souls with the two strong feet of compass.

Imagery use of literary figure to create an imaginary or visual effect among readers so that they can imagine things while reading the poem.

For Example – In the fifth stanza, poet used words like; careless eyes, lips, and hands to misses; assure a reader to visualize such things.

Onomatopoeia Sound’ associated words.

For Example – Use of the word ‘whisper’.

Alliteration the repetition of initial consonant letters or sounds in a sequence of nearby words.

For Example –

  • Dull sublunary lovers’ love

(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

  • Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if the’ other doe.

  • Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And make me end, where I begunne.

ParadoxContradictory statement’ in a way that makes sense.

For Example – In the very first line of sixth stanza, poet states that his and his wife’s soul are one, somehow in hyperbolic tone, although they were two.

Simile Comparing two things using words like- ‘as’, ‘like’.

For example – In the sixth stanza poet compared his love with his wife, is expanding while being in separation like ‘the unbreakable airy thin gold’ beaten up so many times.


Poem contains 9 stanzas and is written in ‘iambic tetrameter’, with an ABAB rhyme scheme.

Iambic unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable.


Tetrameterfour feet (feet in english are iamb, trochee, dactyl, and anapest).

For Example – As virtuous men pass mildly away, the highlighted (orange colored letters) parts count in as unstressed syllable while the underlined part counts as the stressed syllables.


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