The Good Morrow// John Donne

‘The Good Morrow’ rests on the idea of the reflections of an overwhelmed lover waking up to the realization that this night  with the partner has been a discovery of life itself and this morning brings a spiritual awakening for him. After drawing a blank on their earlier existence, he negates their separate existence as inane and pointless as it was half a life for each of them. Each of their love is hemispheric – cosmologically created to be united making up the world of their own for eternity – and is described with geographical and alchemical conceits to present the concept in both abstract and concrete way.

Donne uses a strict structure of one quatrain followed by a triplet in each of the three stanzas which creates an idea of absoluteness that is echoed within the love that Donne portrays. The first stanza starts with Donne wondering what they used to do before their union, where he draws on a childish imagery to present innocence and deprivation of routine life. He believes that they were ‘weaned’, comparing them to the children who have not yet tasted real food and still suckles at their mothers’ breasts – something completely ordinary. Or they were sleeping with the mythological ‘Seven Sleepers’ which is a story of a group of youths who had slept for 300 years to escape religious persecution to return to a world of peace, where, for Donne, this peace has been attributed to him finding his lover. This allows a religious conceit to be weaved into the poem, which further immortalises this love of theirs. In the last triplet of the first stanza, Donne affirms that whenever he had seen anything beautiful, it must have been his beloved’s image in front of him, commemorating the idealistic and hyperbolic version of Elizabethan love poems.

In the second stanza, Donne focuses on the image of his lover in front of him, asleep beside him where he is waking her up. This strengthens the intimate nature of the poem as the poet tells his beloved how their love controls everything and that this little room in which they are in is their entire world and nothing else beyond it matters to them. Let the world discover big things, remarkable things, but they do not care for their world is in this little room, void of earthly concerns. The idea of geography and cartography is brought with repetitions of ‘let’ ‘world’ and ‘one’ in the triplet of the second stanza to emphasis on the conjunction of themselves into ‘one’ ‘world’.

The most intimate imagery is sketched out in the final stanza where the lovers see each other’s reflection in their eyes, encompassed in their own worlds through their eyes. This presents an allegory to the saying ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’ where Donne illustrates this matchmaking of their souls through the first line. This joining of the souls is presented with the geographical conceit where Donne compares both of them as two separate hemispheres, joined together to form a complete world without any atmospheric anomalies or disturbances worrying them. They are from the same chemical element, which brings up an alchemical conceit, as Donne theorises that because they are homogenous in their love, they are forever. They are from the same spirits so nothing of them will die, analogising the Christian belief of eternity achieved through love.

Through his witty and hyperbolic expressions of love, Donne achieves the sense of total fulfilment between him and his lover. He explores the conceit of discovery, geography, cartography and alchemy to pronounce their love as eternal – a beautifully theatricalised version of togetherness. John Donne is the one of most famous of the metaphysical poets, something which is justified through his exaggerations and wittiness when it comes to ideas of eternal existence and love.

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