A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Questions and Answers
by John Donne

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What are the figures of speech of the poem, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"?

Expert Answers info

Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer

bookB.A. from University of Oxford

bookM.A. from University of Oxford

bookPh.D. from University of Leicester

calendarEducator since 2017

write2,267 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

There is actually a simile extending across the first two stanzas of this poem, although it may be a little difficult to spot, given that it begins with the opening "As . . . " and then resumes with the "So . . . " that begins the second stanza. Donne describes how "virtuous men pass mildly away," quietly, and then compares this to the situation he hopes will arise between himself and his love. As these men pass away quietly, "so let us melt, and make no noise." He uses the compound nouns "tear-floods" and "sigh-tempests" to allude to a metaphorical flood of tears or tempest of sighs, but begs that these should not arise, lest they be "profanation of our joys" in giving away the depth of the couple's love to "laity." The use of the words "profanation" and "laity" immediately suggests that the love is something holy, above the understanding of the "laity," or ordinary people.

The love between the two, indeed, is "refined," a word which can be applied to gold. Donne confirms that this is the comparison he is making when, later, he compares the space between them when he leaves to "an expansion," "like gold to airy thinness beat." Because their love is pure and "refined," like gold, it can be beaten out to an incredible thinness and stretched over a supposed "breach" without breaking.

Donne says that if two people in love are really two people (elision is used here, an omission of the implied second part of this thought: are two people in love really two people, or are they one?) they are like "stiff twin compasses." An extended metaphor then follows, in which Donne compares his love to "the fixed foot" of the compass, sitting in the middle while the other part of the compass, the arm, "far doth roam." Donne himself represents the moving part of the instrument; his lover "leans and hearkens" after him and then "grows...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 646 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2005

write3,513 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial