How can "The Good-Morrow" be critically interpreted?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"The Good Morrow" is one of Donne's most famous poems, the subject of much literary interpretation and criticism. Its numerous allusions to seventeenth-century philosophical and scientific beliefs can be confusing to modern readers, but the poem itself develops a singular theme: the expression of romantic love between two lovers.

The title, translated to mean "the good morning," suggests the poem's setting. The narrator has awakened and speaks to his lover, after they have spent the night together. In the first stanza, he asks her questions about what their lives had been before they met. As the stanza ends, he concludes that all his previous experiences in love were insignificant:

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

In the second stanza, the narrator moves from the lovers' past to their present; he also moves from the physical, superficial aspects of their love to its deeper spiritual nature:

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,

Which watch not one another out of fear;

For love all love of other sights controls,

And makes one little room an everywhere.

Because their love is profound, with one soul loving the other, neither will be attracted to anyone or anything beyond themselves. "One little room" (any room they are in together) becomes "everywhere." Together, they become a world of their own.

The third stanza develops the idea of two melding into one entity, two "hemispheres" to be "mix'd equally." The concluding lines look to their future together:

If our two loves be one, or thou and I

Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

The narrator believes that the love they have found with each other, if preserved, will be immortal.

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subrataray | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The theme  of Good Morrow is built on the experience of physical union .

Through the  speculations and reflections of the ecstasy .Donne employs the techniques which are,- the abrupt opening of the poem with a surprising dramatic line(I wander by my troth,what thou and I/Did,till we loved?); the use of colloquial diction (snorted ,But suck’d); the ideas in the poem being presented as a logical and persuasive argument (before experience ,after experience, the nature of the experience ,resultant of the experience ) the mode of wooing is such that “He perplexes the mind of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy , when he should entertain them with the softness of love” .In The Good morrow

Donne neither woos his mistress nor invites her to respond for love-making .He employs thrashing logic ,abrupt comparison and farfetched images which prove a riddle to the mistress .His intention is to philosophize the experience ,and make the lady-love understand that .his is how he perplexes the fair sex .

Again Donne in this poem takes metaphors from all spheres of life, especially from legend( “seven sleepers den”) ,nature(country pleasure) ,geography(hemispheres ,sharp North ,declining West,) navigation(sea-discoverers) paintings(dyes) etc.These images are, ingenious and far-fetched . All these are departures from the Elizabethan conventional love- poetry .

Both in content and form the poet in “The Good morrow” breaks the tie of Elizabethan tradition of love poetry.

The idea of two coming together to form one is very important in Donne's view of love. When a couple find perfect love together they become all-sufficient to one another, forming a world of their own, which has no need of the outside world. This idea is expressed in the lines from The Good-Morrow ;For love,all love of other sights controules,
And makes one little roome, an everywhere­ .

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