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The Computation

The Computation


by John Donne

The Computation Theme of Love

The title, "The Computation" already gives us a clue, because there's no way a Renaissance poet is going to write an entire poem about adding up numbers. This work is addressed to the speaker's lover, in an attempt to show her how much the speaker cares about her. He is so slavishly devoted that he cannot "divide" his thoughts from her for a thousand years. Although there is no suggestion of a breakup, he is unsure about whether she will continue to "favor" him. Also, it is notable that the poem seems somewhat egotistical, with the speaker talking about his own emotions and experiences, and not giving us any idea of what his lover is like.

Questions About Love

  1. What kind of relationship did the speaker and his lover have? Were they in the gooey first stages of love, or were they longtime companions?
  2. Would you want someone to write a poem like this to you, or would you think this kind of declaration of love is a little creepy?
  3. What would you guess are the circumstances surrounding this poem? Did the speaker's lover break up with him, did she die, or have they only been separated for a day?
  4. Does the speaker "forget" his lover in line 8, and if so, why would you include this detail in a love poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Computation" is an example of a generic love poem that is more focused on the use of wit and figurative language than on the character of the beloved.

"The Computation" likely concerns a couple in the first, passionate stages of love, like Romeo and Juliet after they have spent a night together.

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