John Donne The Good Morrow Essay

For most of us, mornings are hard. Some deal by drinking mugs of coffee; others un-drowse over CNN and cinnamon toast crunch. But the aubade, a love poem that takes place the morning after a fun-filled night, is a whole other genre. And by "fun-filled night" we don't mean Office-binges on Netflix. These poems are basically cuddly pillow talk, usually about the nature of love, how sex fits into it, and whether this happiness will last forever.

For the sweethearts in "The Good Morrow," the title says it all. This poem is about waking up: into a new morning after a sexy night, into true love, and into a spiritual unity with the partner who completes you. And get this: "The Good Morrow," which usually headlines collections of John Donne's "Songs and Sonnets," is probably his earliest poem. So does that mean these three stanzas of iambic morning joy could also signify a "good morrow" for Donne himself? Well, if his enduring status as one of England's greatest poets is any clue, heck yes.

Packed with Donne's signature moves, "The Good Morrow" philosophizes about the relationship between sexual and spiritual love, brings in some wild allusions to theology and geography, and decorates everything with metaphysical conceits. Time to wake up and get reading!

Remember the day you upgraded your banged-up flip-top Motorola cell to a gleaming new smartphone and your Entire. Life. Changed? After playing your 567th game of Angry Birds, swiping a few Wat Ups to your friends, and checking the weather forecast, you probably thought to yourself, "OMG, how did I ever live without this?"

Well, John Donne never rocked an iPhone, but this poem is bursting with the same sense of wonder and newness. These lovers can hardly remember what life was like before they fell in love (and bed) together. Okay, they may have messed around with other people, but those shenanigans were lame compared to this rapture.

Plus, just as the fascination of slingshot-ing over-sized chickens at ancient architecture tends to block out the rest of reality—including homework and talking to your mom—this true love is so powerful and sincere that it wipes out the whole world. Other people are excited about exploring new lands (just-published maps were like the smartphones of the seventeenth century: everybody wanted them). But these guys are happy to lie in bed and explore their new love. Why conquer a continent when you've got a whole new world in your bedroom?

Commentary on The Good-morrow

The Good-morrow is one of Donne's happy love songs, celebrating the joys of a completely unified love. We can compare it, therefore, with The Sunne Rising and The Extasie. If the lovers are so unchanging in their love, they will achieve immortality, since only what changes, dies. The poem is driven by a central image: that the two lovers make up a complete world. Nothing really exists outside of their world; it is self-sufficient, self-absorbing.

The first stanza

The first stanza of the poem is where the speaker, who is one of the lovers talking to his partner, looks back to when they were not in love. That time seems unreal. They were children, naïve, asleep even. Whatever pleasures they experienced were mere unrealities (‘fancies') compared to what they have now. Any beauty (we presume any female beauty) was, again, a mere dream to be set against the present intense and concrete reality.

The second stanza

The second stanza of the poem suggests that the lovers have woken now into true reality, out of the shadows of night. In fact, they make their own reality. The room where they are in bed is their world, and nothing exists outside its walls. Yes, the poet says, there may be worlds out there: let discoverers go and find them or map-makers draw them, but let us use our time possessing our own private world.

The third stanza

One complete world suggests that each is a hemisphere perfectly complementing the other. The poet concludes by suggesting that if they can stay totally constant as lovers, then they cannot die, since, according to current thinking, only what is contrary or of different measure can disintegrate. A perfect harmony or completeness will be theirs.

Investigating The Good-morrow
  • Look at the third stanza
    • Explain the line ‘What ever dies, was not mixt equally'
    • How does it fit into Donne's final argument?

1. Imitation, copy, likeness, statue, picture in literature, art or imagination. 2. A figure of speech in which a person or object or happening is described in terms of some other person, object or action (i.e. as a metaphor or simile)


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