The Good Morrow
by John Donne
Stanza 3 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
- Face-to-face with his lover, the speaker sees his own face reflected in her eyes and assumes that she can see his too.
- The coolness of this optical vision is reinforced by an awesome lineup of long I assonance: "my," "thine," "eye," "thine," "mine."
- But this isn't just cool. Gazing into her eyes, he claims that emotional honesty resides in the face. Their true love is written in their eyes and the expression of their mouths.
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
- Line 17 poses a rhetorical question about these hearts, using a conceit (an extended metaphor) to compare them to two separated hemispheres.
- Sure, the world has its own hemispheres, but those are an inferior product. These heart-hemispheres are perfectly designed and perfectly matched. With no cold wintry north, these hearts are full of warm southern love; and with no west, where the sun sets every day, bringing darkness to the world, they hold nothing but constancy and light.
- Notice how line 18's "declining west" or sunset slyly brings the poem back to its title, emphasizing that this is about waking up to true love and starting a new day.
- Are you cooing into your iambic pentameter yet? Well, the cheese factor goes way up once you get a load of the origin of this conceit, which lies in the so-called cordiform maps (cordiform meaning "heart-shaped") of the seventeenth century.
- Devised by a dude named Werner, these map-projections show the world as a heart made up of two half-heart hemispheres. If the speaker and his girlfriend are both single hemispheres, when they combine they form a heart (true love) and an entire world.
- Sounds good, but there's actually more to this conceit than Werner's cordiform maps. To get to the roots, we have to zoom back to Greek times (even before Decius bricked up those Christian kids) and read what Aristophanes thought about the origin of human gender according to Plato. For the skinny, read here.
- In a nutshell, Aristo argued that originally humans were both male and female and were shaped like globes. This combination of genders made them super-buff and they mounted an attack on the gods. Pissed off, the gods punished them by slicing each human in half, one female and the other male.
- And basically that's the origin of heterosexual love: whenever you want another person, you're actually desiring your other half.
- Man longs for woman and woman longs for man because without the other they are incomplete.
- So if love = wholeness, it makes sense that these lovers compare themselves to halves or hemispheres. In their union of love, they recognize that they're making themselves whole.
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.
- The triplet tees off with an observation that seems totally rando and out of context: oh yes, we might have been talking about love and worlds and completion, but listen, did you know that if something dies that means it was out of balance?
- According to medieval theories of medicine, diseases (and death) were caused by an imbalance in bodily humors. For more on how these are not bodily lolz, check this out.
- This line only starts to make sense in lines 20-21, when the speaker concludes that if their feelings for each other are the same or really similar, then their love is so healthy that it will never weaken or die.
- By comparing their love to a human body, the speaker argues that their passion is not just strong and lusty; it's also well-balanced and in proportion. That makes their love the equivalent of Ryan Lochte: super-strong, super-sleek, and too-healthy-to-die.
- True love, multiple worlds for exploring, and immortality? Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good morrow.