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How can we summarize the poem "A Lecture Upon the Shadow" by John Donne in about 200...

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gurdiya | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 12, 2009 at 3:52 PM via web

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How can we summarize the poem "A Lecture Upon the Shadow" by John Donne in about 200 words?

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted June 12, 2009 at 4:46 PM (Answer #1)

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gurdiva,

John Donne's "A Lecture Upon the Shadow" is about the length of a person's love life--it is too short.

The “cares” were fears and uncertainties; the “disguises” were the pretenses that the lovers put on so that others wouldn’t know they were in love. They are diligent in this, with love “still diligent lest others see.” These fears disappear the way shadows disappear under their feet under the hot clarity of the noonday sun. The new shadows (fears) that appear in the afternoon are different from those experienced in the morning. The morning shadows stand for fears about others knowing of their love; the afternoon shadows stand for fears about the other’s loyalty and sincerity. (“These which come behind / Will work upon ourselves, and blind our eyes.”)

The last line of the poem says that the “first minute after noon is night.” While the morning’s fears are short-lived, the afternoon shadows would normally grow longer throughout the day. If the lovers allow these to exist and their love to “decay,” their day will turn to night quickly. This perspective clips the usual cycle morning—noon—afternoon—night; it becomes morning—noon—night.

 

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