The Good Morrow By John Donne Questions and Answers
Q.1. Consider Donne’s ‘The Good Morrow’ as a metaphysical poem.
‘The Good-Morrow’ is a well-known metaphysical poem. It is so not because it deals with such abstract issues as speculation about space (e.g. one little room becoming as varied as the entire universe) and philosophical questions (like the indestructibility of the world of love for the lack of contrareity in it) but because it exhibits certain characteristics connected with the metaphysical way of experession. They are discussed below:
First, the poem is written in a way that much of it sounds like people actually talking. The persence of the speaking voice is clear in the following extract: ‘What thou and I / Did till we lov’d?’ Secondly, we observe the use of a great variety of tone in the poem. A light satiric tone is heard when sucking, unweaning, and snoring slumber are referred to. One of indifference is heard when no curiosity is shown for the ‘new worlds’ of sea-discoverers. One of reassurance is, again, heard when the lover declares that their world of love, whether one two, will neiher slaken nor die as their love is ‘so slike’. Thirdly, most of the flexibility and expressiveness of metaphysical springs from the freedom of rhythm and of poetic form. Donne in ‘The GoodMorrow’ uses rhythm in such a way that the expression of emotion is limited to the minimum. When harsh-sounding words (such as ‘sucked’, ‘snorted’ etc) are added to it, the result is a deliberate roughness that stands precisely opposite to the smooth and facile verse of the Elizabethans.
Fourthly, metaphysical poetry is also notable for a dramatic opening and for an element of argument. The poem opens with a questions: what the lovers did prior to their experience of (sexual) love. It, thus, clears the way to an argument: whether their love is better than other forms of love and whether it is indestructible in nature. Tension, conflict, reasoned discussion and establishment of one’s point go will with an argument. In ‘The Good-Morrow’ tension arises over the question whether the beloved would agree theat all their pleasures prior to their enjoyment of sexual love are childish, immature and covered in ignorance. Conflict springs from the fear whether she would consider their ordinary human hemispheres to be as novel and splendid as the geographical hemispheres of the ‘sea-discoverers’. Reasoned discussion is found when the lover seeks to prove that their hemispheres are better as they are without ‘sharp North’ or ‘declining West’. The lover finally established his point that their world of love, whether one or two, cannot go slack or die as their love is the same all the time. Fifthly, the note of persuation is another characteristic of metaphysical poetry.
The note of persuation is clear when the lover clamly pleads for her acceptance of the human hemisphere instead of the geographic ones about which a lot of hullabaloo (uproar) had been created. Sixthly, another trait of metaphysical poetry is found in the employment of false analogy and false logic. An instance of false analogy is found when lovers’ faces are likened to two hemispheres.
Finally, metaphysical poetry is known for its conceits (far-fetched comparisons). In ‘The Good-Morrow’ conceit is used when pre-sexual pleasures are likened to unweaning, sucking and snoring. Again, it is employed when geographical hemispheres are compared to human hemispheres without ‘sharp North’ and ‘declining West’. Analogy between microcosm and macroscosm (one little room versus everywhere), pun (‘country pleasures’ having two meanings-lovely scenes of the country and unrefined or coarse pleasures), metaphor (former beauties as mere ‘dreams’ of the present beloved) hyperbole (‘love, all love of other sights controls’) and paradox (love; ‘makes one little room, an everywhere’)-all contribute to the wit and intellectual favour of the poem.
The above discussion leaves us with no difficulty to accept Donne’s ‘The Good-Morrow’ as a perfect piece of metaphysical poem.
Q.3. Consider Donne’s ‘The Good-Morrow’ as a love poem.
Ans. Donne’s poetry may roughly be divided into two classessecular and religious. Of his secular poems love poems from the largest group. ‘The Good Morrow’ is one of Donne’s most prominent love poems that has been well received both by critics and readers.
Love forms the central subject of this poem. Truly speaking, the main object of the poet is to establish the superiority of human love. When he becomes more serious he aims higher and tries to prove its indestructible nature-it neither slackens nor dies.
The poem opens in a dramatic way. The lover wants to know from his beloved what they did before they loved. The question is asked at dawn after their last night’s experience of love making. Compared to this, their love for sucking milk from the mother’s breast, for lovely scenes around the country, and for snoring slumber are all immature, childish, and full of ignorance.
This form of love had no doubt filled their life with great satisfaction and pleasure. In the past they tasted pleasures other than this. But compared to this their former pleasures are all nothing but ‘dreams’. Sexual love is, again; nothing to be ashamed of. So they bid good morning to their waking souls, and realize that sensual love, far from hindering, has rather helped spiritual love to rise from its depths of sleep or unawareness.
This form of love has also freed then from a sense of fear or shame. Prior to their enjoyment of this kind of love they were always haunted by fear as at that time their superiors, not they themselves, were in control of their love. They realize that it is microcosmic and macrocosmic at the same time, that it can contract and expand according to its sweet will. As a result, their little room becomes as vast and varied as the entire universe.
Fearing that his beloved may be duped by the glamour and high publicity surroundng the ‘new worlds’ descoverd by the mariners and the ‘worlds on worlds’ revealed by cartographers the lover persuades her to be contended with what they have got-an entire world of love
which is in no way inferior to the geographical worlds of the seaexplorers. On the one hand, this shows love’s duality and unity, and, on the other, its wholesome, enchanting and multiple world that can easily compare with the geographers’.
Love, again, causes their inner nature to come to the forefront. Thus, their eyes reflect precisely and accurately the hearts they possess. The eyes mirror that they have ‘true’ (faithful; honest) and ‘plain’ (simple; innocent) hearts. On close analysis, it is found that the Northern hemisphere (half part of the earth) suffers from cold wind that blows continuosly from the polar regions and the Western hemispheres is one where takes place the setting of the sun. But the lovers’ hemispheres constituted by true and plain hearts do not suffer from such defects or changes. They do not experience cold or indifference nor do they undergo declination of brightness or loss of intensity. Their hemispheres are always warm and cheerful, bright and stable.
Finally, sexual love leads the lover to examine the nature and quality of their love. It is that if an object whether simple (such as soul) or compound (such as heavenly bodies) dissolves, it is because its constituent elements are not mixed equally or hamoniously (i.e. there is contrareity in them). Now he claims that no matter whether their love is one or two, it will neither go slack nor disintegrate because their love is alike (similar) in everyway. The poem ends with the assurance that their love is indestructible (i.e. it can never ‘die’).
As a love poem Donne’s ‘The Good-Morrow‘ is remarkable for certain features. We, first, notice that in it both thought and feeling, ratiotination and passion, go hand in hand, and there occurs no ‘dissociation of sensibility’. Secondly, it is notable for ‘concentration.’ The reader is asked to follow a line of argument which progresses in such a way that he cannot reflect upon a simgle expression or passage or divert his attention to anywhere before reaching the conclusion. Thirdly, it is noted for its conceits and images. For example, the images in this poem are drawn from mythology (seven sleepers‘ den), religion (waking souls), philosophy (love makes one little room, and everywhere), exploration (new worlds of sea-discoverers), cartography
(maps to others about worlds on worlds), geography (hemispheres) and the Scholastic theory of the nature of substance (what ever dies, was not mixed equally). Finally unlike other love poems Donne’s ‘The Good-Morrow’ appeals primarily to our intelligence rather than to our emotions.