The Good Morrow by John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

Introduction

The Good Morrow or good morning is a common salutation, which is usually exchanged when we awaken in the morning. Here it refers to spiritual awakening, an awakening to a new life. The poem explores essentially the nature of complex love experience.Two kinds of experiences are involved – the first kind is dubbed as childish and is therefore rejected. The second kind, which has come as a revelation to him, is passionate love. The poem illustrates all the attributes which have earned the epithet of Metaphysical Poet for John Donne.

Summary

The lover expresses his surprise as to what he and his beloved did before they fell in love with each other. He regards their former pleasures as childish and their former life as a long sleep in which they were as oblivious of the reality of life as the Seven Sleepers were during their long sleep of a duration of two centuries. In comparison to their present pleasure in love of each other, all their former pleasures seem unsubstantial and unreal. Other beautiful women whom he courted, and whose love he could get, now seem to him only the reflections of his present beloved.

The poet (lover also) bids good morning to their waking souls, souls which have waken from a long sleep devoid of love. Their souls are now walking into a world of love and watching each other, bewitched by love force. Fear is gone from their soul. Love is an emotion powerful enough to control and channelize the individual’s perception; it compels an individual to observe nothing but love. Love can transform a room into a complete world, for the lover can cease to think of anything except his beloved. The poet says that the discoveries may go and search for new lands, map makers may chart new areas, but for the lovers, there is no world other than their world of love, which they are eager to possess. For the lovers, the world is delimited to each other’s personality, and even the world of the over and that of the beloved coalesce and merge into each other.

The lover can see his own face reflected in his beloved’s eyes, she can also see her own face reflected in her lover’s eyes. Their hearts replete with love for each other, are reflected in their faces. The poet then emphasizes the idea (by making use of a rhetorical question) that there cannot be two better globes elsewhere. In their faces, there are no sharp northern or southern declinations. In their globes, i.e. their faces, there exists no polarity or differentiation. The poet is of the view that whatever dies is made up of unequal compounds. If their love for each other is equally intense, neither of the two (lover and beloved) can die,for it is only the mixture of unequal elements which is subject to decay.

Analysis

The poem opens in an abrupt colloquial manner, as is usual with Donne’s openings. The first stanza presents the contrast between a life without love and life consisting of all absorbing, passionate love. The subsequent stanzas specify that the world of love is as spacious and as good as the materialistic world. the poem is remarkable for its logic and argument, concentration and the poet’s advocacy. On the lines of the typical features of Metaphysical school of poetry, the readers are held to a line of reasoning and analysis, till the validity of the point of view has been established.

The poem is a salutation to the awakening that constitutes an absorbing love.The souls of the lovers have awakened to a new day, and a new life. So love,not fear, restricts their attention to each other and transforms their little room into a world. No voyager can find a world more wonderful than the one they find in each other.

The poem furnishes a good example of Donne’s wit. This wit lies in the contrast between the two worlds – the world of lovers and the geographical world. It is also not merely a verbal wit, for each world represents an attitude- the materialistic attitude and the lover’s attitude. There is then a complexity of attitudes in the poem. But lover (i.e. the poet) gives not hint of his involvement.He dismisses the geographical world and affirms the world of love.

The imagery of the poem has been drawn from a variety of sources – myth,the geographical world and the scholastic philosophy. The images related to myth include ‘the seven sleepers den’, ‘everyday life suck’d on country pleasures’; and from that of the geographical world are sea discovered, ‘maps’, ‘hemispheres’. The image of scholastic philosophy lies in ‘whatever dies was not mixed
44equally’. the relations between one object and the other are made intellectually rather than verbally. These varied images have been fused into an organic whole by the alchemy of Donne’s wit.

Throughout the poem, the reader feels the directness of impact which is a unique quality of the poet’s phrasing. Temperamentally averse to the sweetness and artificiality of the contemporary love poetry, Donne attempts for the worn out conventions of classical imagery, and his interest in the contemporary life.In brief, the poem is a fine piece of Metaphysical poetry.

Two Hemispheres

While describing the harmonious relationship between the two souls whose love has matured, the poet brings forth the concept of the two geographical hemispheres. According to him, the image of one lover is revealed in the eye of the other. Their looks reflect the simplicity purity and honesty of their hearts.Their two faces are like hemispheres which together make up a whole world.the two hemispheres of their faces are better than the geographical hemispheres because they do not have the ‘sharp north’ signifying coldness and indifference or the ‘declining west’, symbolizing death and decay. Thus love is free from such imagery as it is harmonious and immortal.

Wit

Wit is the perception and clever apt expression of amusing words and ideas which awaken amusement and pleasure. Wit is revealed in the unusual or ingenious use of words rather than in the subject matter. Donne is remarkable for his use of wit. His wit is deliberate and particular. it impresses the readers with its intellectual vigour and force and does not merely lie in the dexterous and ingenious use of words. Secondly it comes naturally from the author’s expansive knowledge and deep scholarship. Donne’s wit has been described by Dr. Johnson as a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike.

His wit is evident in the conceits which are original and startling, but ultimately just. The poet often proves their truth. The ability to elaborate a concept to its farthest possibility without losing the sense of its appropriateness speaks fora high intellectual caliber. In The Good Morrow, the poet compares himself and his beloved to two hemispheres which form the whole earth – which is even better than the actual earth, as it does not have the sharp north and the declining west. It is a complex image conveying the exclusive world of lovers and the warmth of passion in this world on which the sun never sets.

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