Explain the two types of nothingness in John Donne's poem A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Nothingness is when something is absent (as in feelings); one can be nothing (by seeing their existence as nonexistent).The idea of nothingness has been studied and used throughout time. Many literary texts depict their protagonists as feeling like they are nothing.

In John Donne's poem A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day the idea of nothingness is made apparent through Donne's word choices. He depicts himself (based upon the pronoun use of "us") as being nothing.

For I am every dead thing.

Here, Donne is stating that his existence can be paralleled to things which are dead. When something is dead, it fails to have life. While this seems obvious for some, others may argue that death itself does not mean something fails to exist (in one light or another). Therefore, one example of nothingness seen in Donne's poem is the lack of one's state of being.

Another example of nothingness is found when one examines the imagery associated with the great flood to the lives of both Donne and Lucy. While complete destruction of the world is not described in the poem, Donne does describe the fact that he and Lucy's deaths have metaphorically "drown'd the whole world" with their tears--shed from their, and because of, nothingness.


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