A Formalist Look at A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

Literature / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
A formalist look at the rhythm, imagery, symbolism, assonance and alliteration used in John Donne’s `A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning`.

This paper examines John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, a didactic poem created to demonstrate a positive way to separate from a lover. The paper discusses how symbols, narration, revolving metaphors, and imagery are used to deliver these messages and also highlights a pattern of preciseness, parallelism and intent in Donne’s poem. The paper shows how by simply reading it, we can witness how a trial of separation can be difficult but meaningless to lovers who are spiritually true to one another.
`Also, the speaker argues his points specifically, paralleling his notions of matrimony with indisputable facts of astronomy, weather, geology and science and does so repeatedly throughout the poem, continuing a common theme and therefore keeping us on a common path. That he does so with unassuming confidence ensures the reader’s sympathy: most proletarians in the 1600’s were familiar with earthquakes (`Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears / Men reckon what it did, and meant”)(9-10), possibly interpreting them as omens of misfortune; the only widespread knowledge about celestial bodies (“But trepidation of the spheres / Though greater far, is innocent”)(11-12), however, was the fact that there was no widespread knowledge. This tone of voice used at crucial junctures creates patterns of tension and resolution.”


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