Study Guide

The Computation Time

By John Donne


We like the image of clock hands spinning wildly out of control to describe this poem (see "Setting" for more on this). The poem dislodges us from normal earth-time and takes us into the world of the speaker's internal clock. The point seems not to be that time passes so much more quickly when his lover is not around. The point is that it feels like forever since the speaker has seen his lover, even though it has only been a day. The fact that the years in the poem add up to 100 times 24 should give you an idea of how important the Metaphysical Poets felt it was to be clever and witty in their writing.

Questions About Time

  1. Is the speaker arguing that time has sped up since he last saw his lover, or has it slowed down?
  2. Do you think there is any significance to the figure of 2,400 years, aside from being 100 times the number of hours in a day?
  3. OK, here's a blasphemous question, considering we're talking about Donne: do you think the poems seems a little gimmicky? How would you characterize the tone of this poem in terms of its relationship to time?
  4. How much time has really gone by since the two lovers were separated? In other words, is the word "yesterday" in the first line used in a literal or a metaphorical sense?

Chew on This

The speaker's internal clock has slowed down to a crawl since he was separated with his lover, and he feels like they cannot be reunited soon enough.

The metaphysical conceit of prolonged time breaks down in the final two lines, as the speaker throws the traditional concept of linear time out the window.