Language and tone in Nocturnall

Scientific language

In such an emotionally charged poem, so much scientific vocabulary might seem surprising but the last thing Donne wants is an emotional outburst. His thesis is that he has no feelings. Philosophical, scientific language is therefore appropriate to avoid the expression of feeling. Nevertheless remembering earlier times in the latter part of stanza 3 does provoke a demonstration of emotion.

Fallen asleep

The language of philosophy requires exactness. So it is interesting that he corrects himself in ‘But I am by her death (which word wrongs her) ...'. From a Christian point of view, she has not died, a theme explored in The Anniversarie, as well as in some of the Holy Sonnets. In Death Be not Proud, he states

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

Here it is not death that concerns the poet: it is absence.

Investigating Nocturnall
  • There is a rational argument going on here
    • Pick out words and phrases that suggest this
  • What words would you say are emotionally loaded?
    • How do they impact on the more scientific language employed elsewhere?
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