Study Guide

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning Loyalty

By John Donne

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Donne wrote some pretty saucy poems, but for all his playboy bravado, he stayed married to the same woman until her death. As a religious man, he cherished faithfulness to one's spouse. "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" is a love poem, but it's also a poem of praise to his wife's faithfulness. It is her faithful, enduring love that holds their relationship together, seeing as how, you know, he's not letting the shirt touch his back in his mad rush out the door.

Questions About Loyalty

  1. Why do you think Donne emphasizes "two-ness" and "one-ness" so much in the sixth stanza?
  2. Which of the two compass feet represents Donne's wife? What parts of the poem support your answer?
  3. Name at least two actions of those compass feet. How do those show loyalty?
  4. In what way does Donne reassure his wife that he will also be faithful? (Hint: look at the last stanza.)

Chew on This

Donne emphasizes his wife's loyalty, but he also is subtly requiring her to do nothing but stay at home and pine for him until he comes back. Good times for her.

The poem takes an extremely high view of marriage. Their love is committed for better or for worse. (We're guessing that it's about to get worse, for the wife anyway.)

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