Metaphysical poets, selected poems Contents
- Donne, John
- John Donne's early life
- John Donne - from Catholic to Protestant
- John Donne's marriage and its aftermath
- John Donne - The Reverend Dean
- Herbert, George
- Crashaw, Richard
- Vaughan, Henry
- Marvell, Andrew
- King, Henry
- Lovelace, Richard
- Cowley, Abraham
- Philips, Katherine
- Cleveland, John
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context: ideas and innovations
- Aire and Angels
- A Hymn to God the Father
- A Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse
- A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day
- At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners
- A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Synopsis of Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Commentary on Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Language and tone in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Structure and versification in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Themes in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- A Valediction: of Weeping
- Batter my heart
- Death be not Proud
- Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
- Elegie XVI: On his Mistris
- Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
- Lovers' Infiniteness
- Oh my blacke Soule!
- Satyre III: 'On Religion'
- Show me Deare Christ
- Since She Whom I Lov'd
- Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre
- The Anniversarie
- The Dreame
- The Extasie
- The Flea
- The Good-morrow
- The Sunne Rising
- This is my playes last scene
- Twicknam Garden
- What if this present
- Affliction I
- Easter Wings
- Jordan I
- Jordan II
- Love II
- Prayer I
- The Church-floore
- The Collar
- Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Hymn to St Teresa
- St Mary Magdalene, or the Weeper
- To the Countesse of Denbigh
- Ascension - Hymn
- The Night
- The Retreate
- The Water-fall
- A Dialogue between Soul and Body
- On a Drop of Dew
- The Coronet
- The Definition of Love
- The Garden
- The Mower Against Gardens
- The Mower to the Glo-Worms
- The Mower's Song
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun
- The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers
- To his Coy Mistress
- Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax
Commentary on Valediction: of Weeping
Donne is leaving England by sea. He talks in the final stanza of the possibility of actual storms on his voyage. So the image of water comes very naturally to him. Too much water is a dangerous thing, and he applies this to the water of tears caused by overmuch weeping. He brilliantly uses three conceits to reason the need not to cry too much.
The first conceit
The first conceit, in the first stanza, is of tears as coins and fruit.
- Donne uses the parallel of coins being stamped with someone's face (here, the sovereign's) to give them validity, to tears being stamped with the beloved's face
- He reaches this parallel by using the conventional Elizabethan idea of tears mirroring or reflecting the face of the beloved
- So ‘by this Mintage they are something worth'. Tears are precious
- They are also ‘Fruits of much griefe', since their shape looks like fruit, and also like the womb of a pregnant woman
- The combining of the two conceits (of coins and fruit) leads to the paradox:
- The real point emerges in l.9:
since the tears cannot reflect each other then and so have no validity. This becomes the source of existential angst for the poet – concern about whether the lovers continue to exist once apart.
The second conceit
In the second stanza, the conceit is of tears as worlds or globes, again picturing them as round.
- This conceit takes up the idea of all and nothing. In Donne's day, a globe was typically a sphere covered by leather cut to the shapes of the various continents and seas
- His beloved's reflected image in his tears becomes his world
- He then moves the conceit forward by thinking of her tears as well. Her tears fall on his, and so her tears are like a deluge from heaven drowning his world – a second flood
- The story of Noah's flood stands behind the text here, especially Genesis 7:11 (‘the floodgates of the heavens were opened' NIV). So the stanza ends in dissolution, too.
The third conceit
The third stanza uses the conceit of tears as tides and seas.
- Donne's beloved is the moon, since it is the moon that draws up the tidal force of the sea
- She is ‘more than Moone' since she not only draws up the tides, but drowns the land.
- He climaxes with the wonderful phrase ‘Weepe me not dead, in thy armes ...'. This is how destructive weeping really is
- He sees it, too, as an ‘emblem' (l.7) of the real storm surge that he could be experiencing. An emblem is a sign of something
- Having mentioned the idea of a storm, he concludes with the other feature of lovers' grief, sighs, which, appropriately, are symbols of high winds
- So the final argument against grieving is that it could well be an omen of a real disaster: an invitation to fate. ‘Hasts' here is the older spelling for ‘hastes'.
- Compare Donne's use of tears in A Valediction: of Weeping with their use in his Twicknam Garden.
- At what point in A Valediction: of Weeping does Donne actually start arguing against any more tears?
- Compare and contrast the way Donne uses the imagery of sighs in Song: ‘Sweetest love, I do not go' and A Valediction: of Weeping.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
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