Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

by John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls, to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
Their breath goes now, and some say no;

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant,
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Interassured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they two are so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

So wilt thou be to me, who must
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness draws my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun.

* * *

A beautiful Metaphysical poem, using such sharp images: a deathbed, celestial spheres, alchemy, compasses. There's definitely a strong Renaissance feel to the poem. But I think it's still applicable, even now: people still have to say goodbye.

Today I go home, and leave behind my freshman year of college. I hope that my friends and I can be like the people in this poem: too good of friends for our friendship to wane in the least just because we're physically far apart. I will miss them, but I know that they are not going to forget me over the summer. And think how happy we will be to be back together in the fall!

It's funny: nine months ago these people were all complete strangers to me. Now they are "grappled to my soul with hoops of steel." I think we will never, even after college, stop being friends in one way or another.

Still, "tear-floods" and "sigh-tempests" are threatening in the weather forecast. I can't help but be a little emotional. I guess I'm rather sublunary after all.

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