Study Guide

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning Allusions

By John Donne

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Science References

  • Donne gives a nod to a few scientific ideas. He talks about earthquakes, a natural phenomenon that was exotic and little understood by Englishmen of the seventeenth century. (9-10)
  • He contrasts this with his reference to the "trepidation of the spheres," an idea that can be traced all the way back to the Greeks and based on the idea of vibrations of stars and planets creating "music" that controlled our fates. By then, scientists were on the verge of moving past these ideas as well as the whole "earth is the center of the universe" thing, but the image still was popular among artists. Shakespeare used these images a ton. (11-12)
  • In talking about gold and metalworking in general, Donne gives at least a vague allusion to alchemy, the ancient scientific endeavor to transform other metals into gold. (In fact, Donne wrote a poem titled "Love's Alchemy.") (21-24)

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