A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Questions and Answers
by John Donne

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The imagery in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" serves to create what sort of tone for the poem?

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Donne's imagery often incorporates paradoxical elements, because his typical use of "conceits" is based on a self-conscious yoking of strikingly unlike things. In "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," the speaker initially focuses upon himself and his lover as spiritual beings:

But we by a love so much refined
That ourselves know not what it is.

Yet, the imagery in which he describes their souls is that of the material world. When the two of them are separated, they will endure "not a breach, but an expansion / Like gold to airy thinness beat." Donne forces us to focus upon things that contrast with each other in such a severe manner that our bearings are shaken. And this results in a special sort of intimacy between reader and poet, in which the reader must struggle to understand, but is then rewarded more fully than in the case of more "conventional" verse. It is at once a kind of debunking of the often sentimental manner of love poetry and, at the same time, a more intense expression of...

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