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It is impossible to date this poem, and therefore all we can do is surmise that it may have been inspired by the occasion of a trip, upon which the poet found a need to answer objections that might have been raised to his going. Readers brought up in the twenty-first century may wonder why a trip should be a cause of consternation or grief. Readers might need reminding that even a short trip in the days of horse and sail would require an absence of at least several weeks, and perhaps several months. More to the point here is the extensive use of metaphorical language, together with the universally famous concluding metaphysical conceit, or simile, about the relationship of lovers to a geometric compass. It is of course important to explore this simile in some detail, for whenever students of literature refer to the “metaphysical conceit” they invariably turn to this poem and this comparison.
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