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For most of us, mornings are hard. Some deal by drinking mugs of coffee; others un-drowse over CNN and cinnamon toast crunch. But the aubade, a love poem that takes place the morning after a fun-filled night, is a whole other genre. And by "fun-filled night" we don't mean Office-binges on Netflix. These poems are basically cuddly pillow talk, usually about the nature of love, how sex fits into it, and whether this happiness will last forever.
For the sweethearts in "The Good Morrow," the title says it all. This poem is about waking up: into a new morning after a sexy night, into true love, and into a spiritual unity with the partner who completes you. And get this: "The Good Morrow," which usually headlines collections of John Donne's "Songs and Sonnets," is probably his earliest poem. So does that mean these three stanzas of iambic morning joy could also signify a "good morrow" for Donne himself? Well, if his enduring status as one of England's greatest poets is any clue, heck yes.
Packed with Donne's signature moves, "The Good Morrow" philosophizes about the relationship between sexual and spiritual love, brings in some wild allusions to theology and geography, and decorates everything with metaphysical conceits. Time to wake up and get reading!
Remember the day you upgraded your banged-up flip-top Motorola cell to a gleaming new smartphone and your Entire. Life. Changed? After playing your 567th game of Angry Birds, swiping a few Wat Ups to your friends, and checking the weather forecast, you probably thought to yourself, "OMG, how did I ever live without this?"
Well, John Donne never rocked an iPhone, but this poem is bursting with the same sense of wonder and newness. These lovers can hardly remember what life was like before they fell in love (and bed) together. Okay, they may have messed around with other people, but those shenanigans were lame compared to this rapture.
Plus, just as the fascination of slingshot-ing over-sized chickens at ancient architecture tends to block out the rest of reality—including homework and talking to your mom—this true love is so powerful and sincere that it wipes out the whole world. Other people are excited about exploring new lands (just-published maps were like the smartphones of the seventeenth century: everybody wanted them). But these guys are happy to lie in bed and explore their new love. Why conquer a continent when you've got a whole new world in your bedroom?
Here's more than you ever wanted to know about the legend of the Seven Sleepers.
Fordham's medieval sourcebook is a treasure chest of obscure primary texts from long-ago centuries. Here's one version of the Seven Sleepers legend, translated from the Anglo-Norman.
Diggin' the Donne? Celebrate his entire catalog here.
The Good Remix
Get a load of Isolde's mournful recitation, set to the movie's cheesiest love clips.
Fiona Shaw, Plus Music
Here's a theatrical presentation.
Skull and Beret
An… interesting take. Think the moustache is real?
The Good Recording
Hitch your chair closer to the fire and revel in the gramophone-scratchy voice of Richard Burton, a famous Shakespearean actor who's not above a little Donne.
Branagh on Donne
Listen to another, more modern, Shakespearean's reading.
Get a load of this foxy good-looker, as hung in the National Portrait Gallery. With a 'stache like that, it's easy to imagine why so many seventeenth-century ladies wanted to say "good morrow" to his waking soul.
Here is he is again in more… formal attire.
It's Never a Good Morrow for These Folks
Check out this blog post for a more in-depth analysis of how "The Good Morrow" sheds light (haha?) on Isolde's star-crossed love for Tristan in the 2006 movie.
The Good Life
The Poetry Foundation does super-thorough biographies of every poet you've never read. Find Donne's here.
A brief essay on how Plato and his theories of love figure into "The Good Morrow."
Body and Soul
Wrap your head around Donne's philosophy of body and soul, physical and spiritual love, with this landmark study of Donne's work.
433 = 1633?
Tristan and Isolde is a medieval love story (think fifth century, folks), so of course it makes total sense to have Isolde recite a love poem published in 1633, right? Whatever—as long as everyone's wearing armor or those long peasant-dresses, we can give or take ten centuries. It's cool. Check out the trailer for a taste of this Arthurian rom-com.