Structure and versification in Valediction: of Weeping

A syllogism

As in many poems, such as The Anniversarie, Twicknam Garden, The Dreame, A Valediction: of Weeping is structured into three fairly long stanzas. The tri-partite divisions suggests the form of the syllogism, an old logical form used from Greek time onwards, which consisted of a major premise, a minor one and a conclusion. Donne would have been trained in this syllogistic method, both as a scholar and as a lawyer. It gives the poems the impression of a dialectic form, and a firm logical progression of a persuasive argument, even if, in actuality, the poem really is a shout of existential pain or passion.

A new verse form

Each stanza of A Valediction: of Weeping consists of nine lines, as with Twicknam Garden, but the line lengths are quite different. Donne seems to invent a new verse form for almost every one of his Songs and Sonnets. Here we are struck by the short dimeters of the first, fifth and sixth line of each stanza. The fifth and sixth also rhyme together, so drawing attention to themselves, though only in the first stanza is the couplet neatly tucked into itself. The final three lines rhyme together and so draw the weight of the stanza to its ending, which is what a logical argument wants to do as well.

Investigating Valediction: of Weeping
  • Look at the length of the first and last lines of each stanza.
    • How would you comment on these?
  • Pick out one or two images or expressions that have struck you most.
    • Why have they done so?
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