Consider John Donne's "The Good Morrow" as a Metaphysical Love Poem ~ All About English Literature

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Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Consider John Donne's "The Good Morrow" as a Metaphysical Love Poem

Consider John Donne's "The Good Morrow" as Metaphysical Love Poem

Metaphysics, as the term denotes, is a study of abstract concepts; while ‘meta’ means beyond and ‘physics’ means science of concrete things. Metaphysical poetry mainly deals with such concepts as love, faith, soul, death, and God. The key features of Metaphysical poetry consists: abrupt beginning, argumentative expression of emotional contents, use of wit and metaphysical conceits, conversational tone, colloquial language, striking blend of thought and feeling, amalgamation of disparate images, and irregular rhythmic pattern. John Donne is one of those poets and his “The Good Morrow” bears the signature marks of metaphysical love poetry.

Love is the predominant tone of the poem. The poem opens in a dramatic way. The lover wants to know from his beloved what they did before they loved. The question is asked at dawn after their last night experience of love making. This sexual form of love is found to be so significant and powerful than other forms of love. Compared to this, their love for sucking milk from the mother’s breast, for praising the lovely scenes around the country, and for snoring slumber are all immature, childish and full of ignorance.

Obviously there is a shift from physical to spiritual love, sleeping to waking period, sensuous appearances to ideal reality and as if from platonic cave to the world of light in the poet and his beloved. Here the poet seems to have touched the metaphysics of Plato.

Another characteristic of metaphysical poetry is the use of conceit, i.e far-fetched imagery. “The Good Morrow” abounds in the use of conceits. Unconscious lovers have been compared with the breast feeding babies. These are conceits from various sources – ‘the Seven Sleeper’s Den’ (Roman Mythology), ‘Sea-discoverers’, ‘maps’, ‘sharp North’, ‘declining West’ ‘hemispheres’ (Geography), ‘whatever dyes was not mixed equally’ (Scholastic Philosophy).

Naturally, metaphysical poetry includes argumentative expression of emotional content. “The Good Morrow” presents love in an argumentative manner, and is developed through a series of seemingly logical stages, and the connections are marked by the words like “But”, “If”, “Or’, “And”, “For” etc. The poem also moves logically from past to present to future. The lovers’ belief and doubt about the immortality of their love is logically presented:

“If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.”

Since the lovers originally love each other with equal intensity and passion, the lovers argue that they will continue their love for each other until death and even after their death.

The tone of the speaker in the poem is conversational, easy and colloquial. The vocabulary is at once affectionate and dismissive: ‘not wean’d’, ‘sucked’, ‘childishly’, ‘snorted’ etc. ‘Morrow’, ‘troth’, ‘slacken’ are the colloquial words that bind the poem to the metaphysical poetry tradition.

“The Good Morrow” celebrates the true genesis of metaphysical style of love. Thus, the sudden beginning, the abstract theme (love), its logical and argumentative development using conceits, use of colloquial words in a conversational tone, and an absence of rhythmic pattern certainly places “The Good Morrow” in the genre of metaphysical poetry.

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