Goe, and Catche a Falling Starre Summary
“Goe, and Catche a Falling Starre” is a poem by John Donne that explains its speaker’s belief in the inconstancy of women. Unpublished during Donne’s lifetime, many scholars classify it as one of his younger works.
- The poem begins with a list of impossible actions, which the speaker uses to underscore his belief in the impossibility of finding a woman who is both beautiful and faithful.
- The speaker argues that even if a “true” woman did exist, she would be “False” by the time the speaker went to meet her.
Goe, and catche a falling starre,
Get with child a mandrake roote,
Tell me, where all past yeares are,
Or who cleft the Divels foot,
Teach me to heare Mermaides singing,
Or to keep off envies stinging,
Serves to advance an honest minde.
If thou beest borne to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand daies and nights,
Till age snow white haires on thee,
Thou, when thou retorn'st, wilt tell me
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Loves a woman true, and faire.
If thou findst one, let mee know,
Such a Pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet doe not, I would not goe,
Though at next doore wee might meet,
Though shee were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
This poem by John Donne is simply titled "Song," but to distinguish it from the other songs and sonnets Donne wrote it is often listed by its first line: "Goe and catch a falling starre." It falls within the category of poetry that most authorities term Donne's "love poems" or his "younger works," but there is no accurate way to determine when Donne wrote it. He did not publish during his lifetime (although his poems were often circulated in manuscript), so they are notoriously difficult to date.
The feeling in this poem, however, is that the speaker is a young man. He throws out fanciful notions of impossible attainments, such as "getting with child a mandrake root" (a root which was connected with witchcraft in medieval lore) and hearing "Mermaids singing," but then the tone quickly turns serious. The young man, who may still have as much fascination with fantasy as he does with reality, asks how he can keep from feeling "envies stinging." The change is abrupt, but not jarring, because of Donne's careful use of regular verse and exact rhyme. He lightens the sentiment in the following two lines, which are so short they have only one heavy stress: "And finde/What winde." To continue the the tetrameter at this point in the stanza would lead the reader further toward useless comparison and envy, but the short lines bring the wry note back into the poem before the ending line of the stanza: "Serves to advance an honest minde." This young man seems to have several complaints not only...
(The entire section is 661 words.)