What representations of love are good to discuss in "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning"?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Discuss what Donne means by "laity" in the second stanza:

'Twere profanation of our joys 
    To tell the laity our love. 

Laity are the common people, a term which is typically resevered for the clergy.  The speaker is elevating the passion between himself and the beloved to the religious.  It is such a complex emotion that to try to describe it to ordinary people would "profane" the love, lessening and distorting it. 

Since their love cannot be understood, it is best not to speak of it at all.  Indeed, the love the two share is not even properly understood by the lovers themselves:

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

Consider discussing, too, if a love so strong can be sustained even after the death.  The speaker reflects on his pending death, and wonders if their souls are truly one or if they are separate.

Our two souls therefore, which are one, 
    Though I must go, endure not yet 
A breach, but an expansion, 
    Like gold to aery thinness beat. 

This last line compares the love to the melding and reshaping of solid gold, which, when cast from its original state and beaten into other shapes, is still gold.  So, too, the speaker says, will their love change, but not in such a way that it is anything but an alternation in its form. 

 

 

 

 

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A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

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