I can’t promise any sort of proper analysis of these lovely poems. All I can is recommend that you read them for yourself and admire them on your own. I’ve got a wiggly 8.5 month old baby simultaneously breastfeeding, reaching for the iPad and watching my partner play his video game, making thoughtful interpretation pretty much impossible. I’ll give you a highlight for each poem.
“The Good Morrow”
I can strongly relate to the breastfeeding imagery (‘Were we not weaned till then, but sucked on country pleasures, childishly?’), but my time with 17th century lit has made me wary around the words sucked and country as sexualized. I’m convinced some of these poets were secretly 14 years old.
The modern imagery of sea explorers, maps, sciencey applied terms like hemispheres gives this romantic little poem it’s place in time, a time of discovery and enlightenment. I think a lot of couples, especially new lovers, have asked themselves questions like what did we even do before we met and fell and love and awakened? Are we even two people anymore? It’s the discovery, the enlightenment of a whole new world.
Eeeeeeeeeeeeugh. We’ll stuff this in the folio of bitter misogynistic lit about how all women, everywhere, are false.
“The Sun Rising”
I remember this poem from school, and it’s very sweet. It’s when you’re snuggled up cosy in bed snoozing with your partner, and you realize that it’s morning, and you just want it to go away. There’s a nice contrast, comparing the grand kings and exotic countries with the simple pleasure of being tucked up warm with your partner and finding it more valuable.
Apparently he can love any sort of woman listed provided she’s not interested in being a faithful partner, which he said is lucky, because women aren’t faithful partners anymore. He said there are a few women who are faithful, which is unfortunate, because their partners aren’t.
No matter what anyone says or does, he and his partner are in love, so just leave them the hell alone. There’s a nice stanza comparing their love to a phoenix, dying and rising and all that.
“Air and Angels”
Men’s love is heavy.
“Break of Day”
The poem begins sweetly, another picture of lovers in bed in the morning, and it’s time to get up. He says nothing spoils love like being busy. I’m unclear whether this is a husband or wife, or a cheating husband, based on the last line.
“A Valediction: Of Weeping”
Lovers are sad and crying. Maybe they have to stop seeing each other because the guy is already married. See poem above.
He doesn’t understand how people can love someone their entire lives, because women are zombies.
“A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”
There’s speculation in the footnotes that Donne wrote this for his wife on leaving on a long journey, and while away that he dreamed of his wife losing a baby while it was happening back home.
Best footnote yet “3. Reflections of each in the other’s eyes, often called ‘making babies'”. We also have the word sex for the first time so far, appropriate for a poem called ecstasy. The overall message seems to be that love is so elevated, such a thing of souls and not bodies, that the death of bodies cannot really change the relationship. It’s eternal and definitely shows that Donne changes his mind about the nature of love from poem to poem.
Either he has something strange going on with his arm hair, or he has some sort of bracelet on made of his lover’s hair. He doesn’t want it removed when he dies so he can some of his lover to the grave with him.
On about the hair bracelet again.
“Elegy 16. On His Mistress”
Reminds me of Rochester’s persuasive speech to Jane Eyre when she finds out he’s already married.
“Elegy 19. To His Mistress Going to Bed”
Donne gets ready for sex with his partner, poetically. Nice shout out to midwives.
Well, my daughter is composing “A Valediction: Forbidding Tummy Time”. Part two to follow.