A Valediction : of Weeping by John Donne

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A Valediction : of Weeping

Let me pour forth
My tears before thy face, whilst stay here,
For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear,
And by this mintage they are something worth,
For thus they be
Pregnant of thee;
Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more,
When a tear falls, that thou falls which it bore,
So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore.

On a round ball
A workman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Africa, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All;
So doth each tear
Which thee doth wear,
A globe, yea world, by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine do overflow
This world, by wasters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved so.

O more than Moon,
Draw not up seas to drown me in thy sphere,
Weep me not dead, in thine arms, but forbear
To teach the sea, what it may do too soon,
Let not the wind
Example find
To do me more harm than it purposeth;
Since thou and I sigh one another's breath,
Whoe'er sighs most, is cruellest, and hastes the other's death.

A Valediction : of Weeping Let me pour forth My tears before thy face, whilst stay here, For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear, And by this mintage they are something worth, For thus they be Pregnant of thee; Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more, When a tear falls, that thou falls which it bore, So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore.
A Valediction : of Weeping

Critical Analysis:

      The poem A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning was written practically at the same time, when the poet was about to leave for a visit to a foreign country. The poet wants to tell his wife to take this temporary separation in her stride and neither to lament or weep, for after all, this will only disturb the peace of mind of both staying at different places. How to take a separation with tears or sighs or with patience and resignation, this is the theme of the poem. Playing on the image of floods and tides, the poet ultimately comes to the conclusion that mutual understanding and forebearance are necessary, for romantic lamenting and sighing will only increase their sorrow and frustration.

Development of Thought:

      In the beginning, the poet wants to weep out his heart-just to give an outlet to his pent-up feeling for his wife - because he is going out and this separation is intolerable. Of course, the poet's wife is as unhappy as the poet himself at the prospect of separation and loneliness. The poet's tears are worth something because they bear his wife's stamp - "thy face coins them," but with copious tears, the two are reduced to nothing. It is therefore better that they should weep no more.

      The poet compares the tear to a globe and the tears shed by his wife will overflow the world. His tears combined with hers, will cause a deluge and much unhappiness. In fact, the deluge will destroy both of them though they never intended that both of them should die thus.

Tides and Storms:

      The poet's wife, like the moon, is capable of causing high tides capable of drowning the poet. Similarly, her sighs are powerful enough too cause sea-storms which may hasten his death. So at the end, the poet suggests that they should desist from sighing 'one another's death' because it would be mutually destructive. The poet feels that weeping at the time of separation is natural, but it has to be reduced to the minimum because it will destroy the peace of mind of both of them.

Critical Remarks:

      There is an organic development of imagery. One image leads to the other. For example the tear is first compared to a coin and this leads to the 'stamp', and the 'mint' and the 'sovereign and the worth'. The tear is round like a globe; the globe has a number of continents; their profuse tears will drown the creation, the universe and thereby destroy it like the Deluge. The beloved is like the moon. She will cause 'tides' and 'storms' and subsequent 'death'. AIl these images are interlinked, and convey a sense of unified sensibility. There is another image of round and 'pregnant' tears. The tears are round and large like pregnancy, because they hold a reflection of the beloved inside them. Similarly, the falling of tears indicates the falling of the beloved, and thus being reduced to 'nothing'. The poet draws images from geography, theology and astronomy. Even so he does not lose his grip on reality. The situation of the impending separation is faced boldly and the need of poise and patience is stressed. William Empson writes in this connection : "Its passion exhausts itself; it achieves at the end the sense of reality he was looking for, and for some calm of mind."

Paraphrase:

      The poet addresses this poem A Valediction : of Weeping to his wife Anne More on the eve of his departure to a foreign country. This journey was probably undertaken in 1612.

      Stanza 1 : Let me shed my tears in your presence while I am still here (in this country). My tears contain an image of your face and as such they bear your stamp. Just as the coins bearing the sovereign's stamp are worth something, so my tears bearing your stamp are of some value. My tears are round and large like pregnancy and they are just your creation. They are the tokens of past and future sorrows and symbols of more griefs When a tear falls, you also fall with it because it contains your image. When you and I are in different places (the poet in Europe and his wife in England), we are non-entities (insignificant beings).

      Stanza 2 : Just as a cartographer by marking on a globe continents like Europe, Africa and Asia turns nothing into something, in the same way, each tear from your eyes is like the world. My tears combined with your tears will make the great flood - the Deluge which will destroy both of us (the peace of mind of both will be lost by profuse weeping at the time of separation).

      Stanza 3 : Like the moon, the lady can make tides. By your weeping the tides will rise and drown me, even while I am within your arms. Please prevent the sea from doing havoc. Do not encourage the sea storms by your sighs which may do more harm to me than intended. Since I and you sigh and thereby cause frustration to each other, it is but proper that one who sighs most is extremely cruel and hastens the death of the other.

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