The Good-Morrow

by John Donne

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What are the figures of speech that Donne uses in "The Good-Morrow"?

The figures of speech that Donne uses in "The Good-Morrow" are metaphor, allusion, hyperbole, and sound devices like consonance and alliteration. The poem's extended metaphors of sleep and travel allow the allusion to the Seven Sleepers and the hyperbole that the speaker's love is as balanced as two hemispheres of a world. Sound devices like the consonance of s and d sounds and the alliteration of w sounds place emphasis on the speaker's confidence in his love.

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The figures of speech that John Donne uses in “The Good-Morrow” include metaphor, allusion, alliteration, consonance, and hyperbole. Metaphor is direct comparison of unlike things for effect. Allusion is a reference to a person, event, or literary work that is unrelated or tangential to the text. Alliteration is the repetition of an initial consonant sound; it is often combined with consonance, the repetition of a consonant sound within a word. Hyperbole is extreme exaggeration for effect.

Donne uses a conceit, or extended metaphor, of sleep, dreams, and waking to represent the love that the speaker and his beloved share. Time and space are important components of the poem and are developed through several metaphors. The speaker harkens back to the lovers’ figurative childhood to invoke their emotional innocence more than their actual age, mentioning that they were not “weaned.” The speaker refers to the “dream” that was the period when he thought he loved another, and to the lovers’ current awakened, spiritual state: “our waking souls.”

The speaker compares the room he and his loved one are in to the whole world—“love ... makes one little room an everywhere”—and then goes on to use global exploration to represent the emotional and physical experiences of love and sexual relations:

Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world ...

Allusion connects with the extended sleep and dream metaphor. The “Seven Sleepers’ den” in which the lovers “snorted” is a reference to the cave where seven young Christians hid from Emperor Decius of Rome, who shut them up inside. They slept for hundreds of years before awakening but miraculously did not die.

Alliteration is employed from the very start of the poem. In the first two lines, Donne uses the initial w sound, including for the “we” who are the poem’s subjects: along with “we” (used twice) are “wonder,” “what,” “were,” and “weaned.”

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?

The next two lines make extensive use of the initial s sound, which also is used as consonance in “pleasures” and “Sleepers.” The d of “den” is picked up in the stanza’s last line, in the important words “desire” and “dream.”

The speaker has a very high opinion of the intensity and durability of their love. In the last line, he uses hyberbole to express the idea that their love cannot die:

thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

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