Study Guide

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning Lust

By John Donne

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"A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" is a love poem, but Donne needs a whipping boy to compare to his all-powerful love. He uses lust. He kicks lust all over England in this poem as a way of showing just how much better his love is. Poor lust. It never stood a chance.

Lust is the opposite of love, if you think about it. Lust wants to take; love wants to give. Lust is skin deep, but love is body, mind, and soul. Donne calls our attention to the simple truth: when two people who are "in love" can't stand to be apart even for a little while, doesn't that tell us all we need to know about what their love is based on?

Questions About Lust

  1. How is lust, or shallow love, like an earthquake according to the poem?
  2. What is the logical argument made by Donne's speaker in stanza four? Do you agree with his point? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think the speaker spends most of the first half of the poem talking about other peoples' shallow love before moving on to talk about his own relationship?

Chew on This

Donne is overstating his case here and it's a little ridiculous. I mean, are we supposed to discredit anyone's relationship simply because they cry when they have to be apart?

Donne overstates his case for good reason—he believes no one could have a love like his. Compared to his love, everything else is just shallow lust. So there.

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