Knowledge is the key to immortality
|John Donne's poem, 'Good Morrow'
|Prepared by Dr. Baburam Swami - Assistant Professor - English
The poem, "Good Morrow " is written by John Donne. It is a classic love poem, likely written by the poet's wife, Ann Moore. The first two stanzas draw out the poet's love for this woman, proclaiming love itself as the all-important event in life.
The third stanza continues on a similar path, beginning with an image of the two lovers looking at each other proclaiming, "My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears". This line refers to the two lovers gazing closely at each other, seeing themselves in their lover's eyes. It can be considered on a literal or metaphorical level; eyes do offer literal reflections, and one can see oneself in another's eyes, but the metaphorical interpretation suggests that John and his love only see each other because they're so deeply in love.
"Where can we find two better hemispheres/without sharp north, without declining west?" Since a hemisphere is only half of a sphere (think of each hemisphere as being half of a globe), Donne is drawing a traditional yet poetic image of the two lovers only being half of the entire whole. Donne is not complete without his love, and she is not complete without him.
The poem continues, "Whatever dies, was not mixed equally". Donne is explaining that true love cannot die, but that true love also requires reciprocal effort. Each lover needs to contribute equally, and only if the love is true can it never die.
The poem concludes, "If our two loves be one, or, thou and I/Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die". With this final line, Donne continues the previous thought of eternal love and mutuality. If he and his lover are able to love each other truly, wholly, and equally, they can transcend mortal death. Their love is more powerful than all, and it cannot simply die. It's also interesting to note Donne's usage of the word "die" as the final word of the poem. In a literal sense, the poem ends at the word "die", just like a life is ended at death. Yet, the poem transcends time and escapes its death by existing as a form of love and art. Like the love described in the poem itself, "The Good-Morrow" is eternal.
The poem opens with a reference to a Catholic legend as Donne says:
I Wonder by my troth, what thou, and I
Did, till we lov'd? were we not wean'd till then?
But suck'd on countrey pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the seaven sleepers den?
T'was so; But this, all pleasures fancies bee.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, t'was but a dreame of thee.
— Stanza 1 (lines 1–7)
This refers to the Seven Sleepers, the Catholic legend of seven Christian children, persecuted for their faith during the reign of the Roman emperor Decius, who fled to the shelter of a cave where they slept for more than 200 years. Donne, one of six or seven children and a baptised Catholic during a time of strong anti-Catholic sentiment from both the populace and the government, would certainly have been familiar with the story.
And now good morrow to our waking soules,
Which watch not one another out of feare;
For love, all love of other sights controules,
And makes one little roome, an every where.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let Maps to other, worlds on worlds have showne;
Let us possesse one world, each hath one, and is one.
— Stanza 2 (lines 8–14)
In this passage, the speaker experiences a sense of wonder, having awoken in bed with his lover; he makes the discovery that their love makes finding "new worlds" pale in importance. "[S]ouls" also awake, not just bodies, "as if called by love from the sleep of ordinary life and mere lust".
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appeares,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest,
Where can we finde two better hemispheares
Without sharpe North, without declining West?
What ever dies, was not mixd equally;
— Stanza 3 (lines 15–19)
This passage shows the speaker communicating to his lover that they have proceeded from their former "childish" pleasures to this moment, where their souls have finally awakened; something "miraculous" has happened, because the speaker feels the sort of love that Paul the Apostle claimed would only be encountered in heaven.
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.
— Stanza 3 (lines 20-21)
While the version found in Songs and Sonnets includes this passage as the last two lines, other manuscripts and a later volume of poetry give the last lines as, "If our two loves be one, both thou and I/Love just alike in all, none of these loves can die".
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