Themes in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning


The obvious theme in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is that of Separation. As with all valediction poetry, separation is naturally a cause for grief, and therefore either consolation or fortitude are needed. Donne comes to this theme from another one: The nature and completeness of the lover's world. For him, this completeness has a sacred, even mystical, force. Hence

T'were a prophanation of our joyes
To tell the layetie our love.

where laity means those who are not part of the order of ‘priests', or those initiated into the religion of love. In the end, he has to admit that their love is so mysterious

That our selves know not what it is

Even so, Donne is human enough to know that beyond the metaphysics of such love, an actual attitude of courage, a stiff upper lip, is what is most helpful to him. It is ‘Thy firmnes' in the end that is likely to help him come home safe and sound, rather than her tears.

Investigating Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
  • Do you think Donne is in denial that the lovers are to be separated?
  • If so, what does he gain?
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