The Good Morrow: A Metaphysical Explication
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by Michael Hall
Few come close to such a thorough expression of love as John Donne. In his poem, ‘The Good Morrow,’ Donne fully employs the numerous devices of poetry to relay his speaker’s endearing message to his lover. He uses elements of structure, figurative language, point-of-view, and tone to creatively support his speaker in the endeavor. However, not all aspects of the poem are clear due to the astute allusions and references by the learned Donne. Examples of these unclear elements are found in the first stanza’s ‘seaven sleepers ...view middle of the document...
In addition, the first stanza strategically uses assonance to reinforce the word ‘we.’ This is done by a repetition of the long e sound. For example, all of these words are from the first stanza: we, wean’d, countrey, childlishly, sleepers, fancies, bee, any, beauty, see, desir’d, dreame, thee. As you can see, this is not merely coincidence, but an ingenious strategy to further emphasize the union of the two lovers. However, Donne uses assonance for the opposite effect in the last stanza. Instead of focusing on the couple, the speaker focuses on himself by reinforcing the word ‘I.’ This is done by a repetition of the long i sound. For example, all of these words can be found in the third stanza: I, thine, mine, finde, declining, dyes, alike, die. True, there are instances of the long e sound in the third stanza, but the long i sound predominates. Due to this, there is an obvious opposition to what the speaker says, and to what the musicality of the poem suggests. From a musical perspective, instead of being primarily focused on the union, the speaker appears to be more concerned with himself. However, this view will change as we further discuss the poem.
Donne’s use of figurative language, along with the point-of-view and tone of the speaker, enhance his poem. First of all, sexual imagery is present in the first stanza. For example, words such as ‘wean’d’ and ‘suck’d’ elicit breast images. These loaded terms also help identify ‘countrey pleasures’ as a metaphor for breasts. Another example of metaphor is the word ‘beauty’ in line 6, which actually represents the woman. Metaphysical conceits are also present in the poem. An example is the hemispherical imagery representing the lovers in the final stanza. In the second stanza, there is an example of hyperbole when the speaker says ‘makes one little roome, an every where.’ This is an obvious exaggeration and a physical impossibility. There is also use of paradox in the poem. For example, when the speaker says: ‘true plaine hearts doe in the faces rest.’ Obviously, this phrase is paradoxical as hearts cannot rest in faces. An example of metonomy can be found in the last stanza when the speaker states: ‘My face in thine eye, thine in mine appeares.’ The speaker does not mean that his face literally appears in his lover’s eye, but that she is aware of him. There are also two allusions in the poem, one with the ‘seaven sleepers den,’ the other with the ‘hemispheares,’ both of which are explained in greater detail later in the paper. Furthermore, there is a superb example of symbolism in the poem. This can be found once in the poem itself, and in the title”good morrow.’ This not only represents the physical sunrise, but also symbolizes the birth of the awakened individual. In addition, the point-of-view of the speaker is from the first-person perspective. Although there are two individuals involved in the poem, only the male speaker is heard. And finally, the tone is casually intimate. Clues to...