Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

Science and Maths

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is structured through the main conceits and it is through them also that the argument builds up. There is, as in A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies Day, a focus on scientific or mathematical images:

  • earthquakes
  • compasses
  • the properties of gold.

This is set against the traditional imagery of parting: sighs and tears, which are dismissed as

  • ‘teare-floods' and
  • ‘sigh-tempests'
  • The use of the term ‘melt' suggests more the melting of snow – totally quiet

Moral virtue

The initial image, of the deathbed, is the only one that suggests moral quality. ‘Virtuous men' have the power to choose the moment of death and do it silently. Silence becomes the new moral virtue.

Investigating Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
  • Look at the image Donne develops in the last three stanzas:
    • Do you feel that this final image rather hi-jacks the poem, so that at the end this is all we remember about the poem?
    • Or do you feel it provides a neat and memorable ending?
  • Compare and contrast the use of imagery here to that in A Valediction: of Weeping
    • Do you see any significant differences?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.