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The Computation

The Computation

by John Donne

Math

Symbol Analysis

The math majors were probably all getting excited when they saw a poem called "The Computation." Alas, the poem is not about math, but instead about love. Donne contrasts the expectation of academic computation and procedural knowledge with the intense passions of the speaker. His poem is kind of like Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem that begins "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." except this poem is more like, "Let me count the years." The counting is merely a means of expressing the speaker's devotion.

  • Title: The title is ironic, because it makes you think that the poem is just a simple math problem, a "computation," and not an over-the-top expression of the speaker's devotion.
  • Lines 1-14: We've said this elsewhere, but keep in mind that all the years in the poem add up to 2,400, which is 100 times 24, which is the number of hours in a day. The speaker is essentially saying that time passes waaay slower for him than for the rest of us. At least, when his lady is out of the picture.
  • Line 7: The word "divide" strikes us as a pun, because it is both a kind of "computation" and a spiritual expression of a kind of thought. He cannot metaphorically "divide" his thoughts or actions from his lover.

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