The Good Morrow by John Donne - Summary & Analysis

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The Good Morrow

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 every where.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to others, 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?
What ever 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.

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.
The Good Morrow


      The Good Morrow is one of the finest poems of John Donne explaining the complex nature of love. Initially, love has an element of fun and sex. It is like the dark night an experience which is not quite clear. But with the dawn, the true nature of things is revealed. The title "The Good Morrow" suggests the dawn of true metaphysical love poem, its essential quality and the mutual understanding and confidence between the souls of the lover and the beloved. This kind of pure love provides a complete world to the lovers a world without coldness, fear and decay. It is much better than the physical world. This perfect love is' neither subject to time nor death.


      Stanza 1: I am surprised- I swear by my faith - what we both did till we fell in love. Perhaps, we were satisfied with our childish pleasures (like sucking mother's milk). Maybe we enjoyed the simple joys of nature in the country before the realization of true love. Perhaps, we slept for many years like the seven sleepers who slept in the cave. All the former pleasures compared to the present one are just fancies. If I found any beautiful girl whom I liked and got, she was just a shadow or reflection of your beauty.

      Stanza 2: Now that our souls have awakened to a new-life, let us say good morning' to them. Our souls watch each other not out of suspicion or fear but out of love. Our love prevents us from running alter any other sight or pleasure. Our small room of love is as good as the whole world. Let the navigators roam over the seas and discover new worlds for themselves. Let the maps show to the other people the different worlds that exist. We are happy with the possession of one world-the world of love-where the lovers are united into one.

      Stanza 3: My face is reflected in your eye and likewise your face is seen in my eye. Our faces reveal to us that our hearts are pure and innocent. We two, between the both of us, constitute two hemispheres which are better than the geographical hemispheres because our first hemisphere is without the slanting North Pole (with its bitter cold), and our second hemisphere is without the declining west (where the sun sets). So, our love is not subject to vagaries of weather or time (decline). We know that only those things die whose constituents are not mixed proportionately. Our two loves are one because they are exactly similar in all respects and as such none of them will die. Our mutual love can neither decrease nor decline nor come to an end. Our love is immortal.

Critical Analysis

      In his inimitable way, Donne begins the poem with a question - what thou and I did till we loved? This rhetoric easily captures the attention of the reader. The poet compares the first stage of love-sex and enjoyment with the mature type of love, the harmonious relationship of two souls. There is a lot of difference between the two types of love. The poet's wit is seen in his contrast between the two worlds-the worlds of the lovers and the geographical world. There is no 'sharp North' or 'declining West' in the world of lovers. It is a mutual love equal in quality and spirit-balanced and harmonized in such a manner that it is not subject to time or decay. The poet proceeds from the night scene and the experience of sleepy love to the morning of pure love which gives him a new life and makes him discover a world in their little room. No navigator has ever found a world as wonderful as the world of love. This discovery of true love is as welcome as the greeting of a new day

      Donne's manner is that of 'concentration' advancing the argument in - stages, reasoning till he is able to prove his point and drive it home to the reader. Like an able lawyer, he presses his point in such a manner that it is very hard to refute it. Moreover, he marshalls his images from different sources in such a way that the cumulative effect is irresistible. Grierson rightly points out that the imagery has been drawn from a variety of sources, i.e. myths of everyday life, e.g. the seven sleepers den, 'suck'd on country pleasures' and 'wishing in the morning', 'one-little room', the geographical world, 'sea-discoveries', 'maps', 'hemispheres and lastly, the scholastic philosophy 'what-ever dyes, was not mixt equally'. The relation between one object and the other is made intellectually rather than verbally. Donne's method in spite of his scholarly references is not pedantic and appeals to the lay reader by its sincerity and sharp reasoning.

Development of Thought:

      In the beginning, the poet examines the nature of the first experiences of love. The first set of experiences is childish - the physical joys of love. The second set of experiences is much richer - it is the experience of spiritual love in which the voices of one soul are echoed by the other soul. The mature experiences of love make one disregard the first foolish acts of love, when so to say, the souls were asleep in the den of seven sleepers. The poet can only dream of true love in the first stage. The atmosphere of sleep, stupor and dream shows the fleeting and unstable nature of this kind of immature love.

The Dawn of True Love:

      The past life spent in childish love was a sort of dream and blank. The night of oblivion and unreality is about to end. The dawn of true love is imminent and it awakens the soul of lovers to the meaning of true love. This true love makes them open out their hearts to each other, without any fear or inhibition. Their love for each other is all-absorbing and all-satisfying. They have no delight in other scenes or places. Each is like a world to the other. This world of love is everywhere. The poet is happy with the world of love. Let sailors discover new worlds and make charts and maps of the lands they have discovered. On the other hand, the lovers are content in their own worlds. Each of them has a world, but the two-worlds of the two lovers put together, make one World of love.

The Two Hemispheres:

      As the lovers look at each other, each of them sees his own image in the other's eyes. Their looks reflect the simplicity, purity and honesty of their hearts. Their two faces may be compared to two hemispheres which together make up a whole world. The two hemispheres of the faces of lovers are better than the geographical hemispheres because they do not have the 'sharp North' and the 'declining West'. The 'sharp North' implies coldness and indifference-to which their love is not subject-and the 'declining West' symbolizes decay and death from which the lovers are free. According to certain philosophers, when different elements, which go into the making of a thing, are not harmoniously mixed, the thing is liable to decay and death. This is not true of their love because their love is harmonious, and is sweet-blooded. As such their love is immortal and beyond the vagaries of time and clime.

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