The Good Morrow by John Donne
The poem, The Good Morrow by John Donne is a stark expression of the strength as well as oneness devoted love.
The Good Morrow Summary
By my truth, I wonder what thou and I did till we loved. Were we not weaned till then? Did we suck childishly on country pleasures, or snort in the seven sleepers’ den? That might be so. But all this may be the fancies of pleasures. If I did see ever any beauty which I desired and got that was but a dream of thee.
I. The poet’s fanciful interrogation of what his ladylove and himself did before their meeting.
The poet wonders to ascertain what his ladylove and himself did before their union in love. He fancies the ways in which they might have passed their time till their meeting. They might have grown pale in love-sickness, engaged themselves in the childish pursuits of country life, or slept away their time, like the legendary seven sleepers. The poet. however, is aware that all these speculations are purely the diverting play of fancy. But he is assured of one thing that the beauty of his ladylove was all in all with him. It was all that he desired and dreamt and has won.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls which do not watch, out of fear, one another, for love controls all love of other sights and makes an everywhere one little room. Let sea-discoverers have gone to new worlds, let maps have shown other worlds on worlds, but let us possess one world, each hath one and become one.
II. The self-complacent, trustful love of the poet and his ladylove:
The poet and his lady live in exclusive love, free from fear or suspicion. Their love rules their ways of living and makes their little accommodation their own universe. They care not for whatever advancement is achieved or discoveries made. All that they know and need know is the oneness of their love, the unification of their selves in love.
My face appears in thine eyes and thine in mine. And true plain hearts do rest in the faces. Where can we find two better hemispheres, without sharp North, without declining West? What was not mixed equally ever dies. If our loves become one or thou and I love so alike, none of us do slacken, none of us can die.
III. The inalienable, indestructible love of the poet and his lady:
The poet and his ladylove have become one in their mutual, trustful love. They are just like two perfect hemispheres, without the lease distortion anywhere. Their love is imperishable, because the merger of their individuality is absolute. Their love has unified them so strongly and deeply that they seem to live above earthly decay and death.
The Good Morrow Theme
The Good Morrow is a characteristic love poem by Donne and reveals his genius as a metaphysical poet. The theme of the poem is love-its depth and devotion. It celebrates the happy, contented love that has unity in diversity. The bond of love is sound enough to draw two lovers and make them one. Their love is not simply devoted but also self-complacent and cares for nothing else. True lovers are haunted neither with fear nor with suspicion and remain proud of their single possession-their love. Devoted, mutually trustful love, in fact, dominates and dictates all their pleasures and pursuits, and is manifest in the spontaneity of their feeling. In fact, oneness in love triumphs over all earthly mutability and mortality and shines ever in mutual attachment. The concluding lines bring out this central thought precisely in the typical metaphysical manner-
“If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.”
The Good Morrow Line by Line Analysis
Stanza 1 :
I wonder– the poet feels curious. Troth-(arch) truth. By my troth-upon his truth : sincerely : truly. What thou and I did-how did the ladylove and the poet pass their time. Till we lov’d-till they came to love each other. I wonder……..lov’d-the poet feels quite inquisitive as to how the lady and himself passed their time before they could meet and love. Were we hot….then – did not they grow pale ? Of course, the poet, perhaps, indicates their paleness caused by love-sickness. There is a fine touch of wit here. There is a slight sling at the sentimentality of love in the poet’s interrogation.
N.B. This is a part of Donne’s metaphysical intellectualism.
Suck’d on country pleasures-lived by tasting the pleasures of country life. The poet indicates simple, homely pleasures. Childishly – sillily, thoughtlessly
N.B. The poet’s fancy is diverting. In what way did the lovers live till they met? His fanciful guess is that they enjoyed homely pleasures to while away their time thoughtlessly. The metaphysical intellectual element also predominates here.
Snorted we– did the lovers snore away their time? Where they lost in deep sleep? Seven sleepers-this pertains to the story of seven noble Christian youths who, fleeing from the persecution of Decius, the Persian Emperor, hid themselves in a cave, and remained sleeping there for three centuries. The seven sleepers’ den-the cave where those Christian youths hid themselves and remained asleep for three centuries “was so-that might be so. They might have whiled away their time such a fanciful way.
But this-but all such surmises, guesses. All pleasures fancies– fancies made in a pleasurable pursuit. The poet’s implication is that all such guesses is the mere play of fancy in a jovial spirit. If ever any… -the poet’s reference is to the beauty of his ladylove. He wants mean that he has not seen any other beauty. Which / desir’d and got- which he sought and got. The poet qualifies his previous statement The beauty that he saw. desired and won. ‘Twas but…thee – it was all the dream of the ladylove.
N.B. The lover’s affirmation of love is precise as well as distinct. The beauty that he saw, desired and got was his ladylove who was the dream of his life. To the poet, the lady is, in fact, all his desire and dream, his passion and possession. Despite the metaphysical conciseness, the tone of sincerity is undeniable here.
Stanza 2 :
Now good morrow to our waking souls– the poet bids good morning to the souls of his lady and himself. Waking souls-spirits, fully awakened to the passion of love. The poet’s simple meaning is that the ladylove and himself are fully active in love, with their passion and devotion remaining intense. Which watch…..out of feare-that does not remain suspicious. The poet implies that their love lives above all fear or suspicion.
N.B. High idealism of mutual love and trust is well indicated here.
For love-emphasis is laid on love. All love….controules-rules and controls of love over all other sights. For love…..controules-their love for each other controls their individual love for other elements-other sights and views
N.B. The expression is epigrammatic. Its significance lies in the poet’s assertion that the lovers are absolutely ruled by their mutual love to such an extent as to suppress and subjugate their individual love for different elements.
One little room– the small apartment of love, where the lover and his lady live in mutual love and trust. An everywhere-an extremely terse expression meaning the place which is everything to the lovers. What the poet means is that this is their universe of love. Makes one….every where-their intense, trustful love has made their little single room as vast to them as the universe.
N.B. The poet’s tone is idealistic, inspired, although his conceit of one little room is metaphysical.
Sea-discoverers– explorers and discoverers. New Worlds-newly discovered lands. Let sea-discoverers…..gone-this has a reference to the discoveries of new countries made by the English seamen and explorers in the sixteenth century. Let maps…..shown-let maps indicate further new lands on the newly discovered lands. The poet’s implication is that the discoveries or explorations of new lands may enlarge. Let sea discoverers….shown-the lovers seem to bother least about the advancement of knowledge or the extension of the geography of the world. Explorers and discoverers may set out and find out new lands beyond the unchartered seas. The maps of the world may come to include further territories, only recently explored. But the lovers are least fascinated by all such achievements. Let us possess one world-the lovers want to live exclusively in their own world-the world of love. Each hath …..one-but their world is one. The lovers are two individuals but their love makes them one, and they live in their one, singular world of love. Donne here reflects on the concept of unity in diversity in love. attained through earnest devotion.
N.B. The last three lines are specifically rich in Donne’s typically metaphysical imagery. The images of the ‘sea-discoverers’ and ‘maps are well employed to echo the profundity of love, that brings about the absolute merger of the lovers. Donne’s contention here is nothing new. This is the old concept of unity in diversity in love, but his metaphysical manner of expressing this is original, full of intellectual vigour and homely approach.
Stanza 3 :
My face in thine eyes– the poet’s face is reflected on the lady’s eyes. Thine in mine appears-the lady’s face is perceived in his eyes. As the lovers come closer, the face of each of them is reflected on the other’s eyes. My face in……. appears-love has unified the lovers who live very close as if to merge into one. Their faces are mutually reflected on their eyes and thereby have been brought into oneness.
N.B. Here, again, the concept of unity in diversity in deep love is brought out with the usual metaphysical precision
True plain– hearts-simple, sincere hearts, inspired by and devoted to the passion of love. In the faces rest-is revealed in their faces. True plaine….faces rest -nsimple, devoted heart is borne out in the very face. The poet implies that true love is well manifest in the very look of the lovers. N. B. The face is always the index of the heart. The lovers’ faces bear out the genuineness of their devotion. Where can we……hemispheres-two hemispheres from the perfect, round globe. The lovers are compared to two hemispheres. Their love is so true and strong that they two form one prefect whole. The analogy here is unconventional, but remarkably pointed and diverting. Sharp North-any pointed northern side. Declining West-bending western side.
Without…west– two hemispheres are perfect and merge thoroughly without any distortion or deviation. The poet wants to mean that love has perfected the lovers to such an extent that they become absolutely one.
N.B. Donne’s conceit here is really remarkable and bears out the originality as well as intellectualism of the metaphysical style. The lovers are compared to the two hemispheres which merge perfectly, absolutely. The introduction of geographical or scientific matters to express the devotion of love is quite novel in conception and bespeaks the uniqueness of metaphysical artistry.
Whatever dies-that which is subjected to decay. Mixed equally – merged totally. What ever dies….equally-that which is not perfectly fused or blended is subjected to distortion and degeneration. The poet’s contention is that true love brings the lovers together perfectly and remains imperishable.
N.B. Unification in love is, again, emphasized. Of course, a scientific fact is here hinted. The mechanical mixture of two elements is separable, but a chemical compound is inseparable. Similarly, in true devotion, the lovers become absolute, inseparable.
If our two loves– the poet’s love for the lady as hers for him. They are two individuals and hence their love is two. Be one-becomes one, single. If our two loves be one-if their love for each other becomes one. Thou and I– the lady and the poet. Love so alike– love in the same manner, with equal intensity. None doe slacken– no one grows weak. None can die-no one is subjected to death. Thou and I……none can die-if the poet and his lady can love each other with equal vigour and intensity, none of them will be subjected to decay or death. The poet here confirms the power of love to stand against mortality. In mutual love the lovers are thoroughly merged, lose their individual identity and live above the touch of mortality.
N.B. The triumph of love over mortality, as the conventional poetic theme, is expressed in a novel way, with characteristic metaphysical conciseness and conceits.
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