Sweetest Love, I Do Not Goe Summary

Synopsis

In this poem from John Donne's Songs and Sonnets, first published posthumously in 1633, Donne playfully consoles his lover as he prepares to depart on some kind of journey. The reason for the parting is not a pressing engagement, but rather a kind of practice run for the parting that they must eventually suffer when one of them dies. Since death is inevitable, he argues, they had best get used to it by enduring the parting that is a fake death:

Thus to use myself in jest / By feigned deaths to die.

In the second stanza, Donne consoles his lover by developing an analogy between his own journey and the movement of the sun. Just as the sun went down "yesternight" and returned today, so she may count on his inevitable return. In fact, he is even more to be relied upon because, unlike the sun, he has "desire" and "sense," and he takes "more wings and spurs." Donne is thus impelled by love to return as quickly as he can.

The remaining stanzas mourn humanity's powerlessness either to prolong good fortune or to repel the bad. Donne, however, concludes how he and his lover may triumph over the adversity of parting. When she sighs in her sorrow, he says, she "sigh'st not wind, / But sigh'st my soul away" (a characteristic hyperbole, which demonstrates Donne's debt to, and reinvention of, Petrarchan tradition). The couple's dependence on one another is reinforced by a succession of pronouns: "thou," "me," "thine," and "my." Donne concludes that she "art the best of me." Destiny may indeed fulfill her fears for him, but they can preserve each other by viewing their parting as nothing more than a turning aside from one another, as would occur naturally in sleep. Their interdependence means that each keeps the other alive and so, by Donne's neat quasi-logic, they "ne'er parted be."