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A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

by John Donne

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How does the poet justify his separation from his lover in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"?

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The poet justifies his temporary separation from his lover in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" by asserting that the love they share is not a common or purely physical love. Instead, their two souls function as one. The speaker insists that their ability to part company for a while is a testament to the strength of the bond which unites them.

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John Donne wrote "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" for his wife, Anne; he was preparing to travel to continental Europe at the time he penned these verses. In this poem, Donne is therefore also the speaker of the poem, urging his wife not to be saddened as they temporarily part company.

Donne justifies this temporary separation by asserting that he and his wife share a true love which transcends the distance that will be between them for a while. They are not "dull sublunary lovers" whose feelings cannot handle a separation. Those people rely strictly on a physical connection to bind them together.

Instead, Donne and his wife share a "refined" love that binds their minds together. Their "two souls" function as "one," and like gold, their love has the ability to expand under pressure to cover an even greater physical distance.

Donne insists that his wife is like one foot of a drawing compass, and he is the other foot. As he moves, she is his anchor, and he always "end[s] where he [begins]," which is back at his wife's side.

Donne therefore insists that he and his wife can endure a temporary physical separation because they do not share a common or purely physical love. Instead, the fact that physical distance fails to weaken their bond reflects the strength of their unordinary devotion to each other.

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