National Poetry Month, day 3: John Donne

From a collection of love poetry that I own, an offering by John Donne.

“The Good-Morrow”, by John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

There’s a lot going on in this poem–I had to look up the reference to the “Seven Sleepers”, which turns out to be a pretty interesting bit of mythology on its own–but what caught my eye, just briefly, is the question Donne asks in the very first two lines and explores over the course of the first stanza. It’s certainly my experience that once love is found, it gets harder and harder to remember what it felt like before it was found, and it’s easy to ask the question Donne is exploring: If our two lives are one now, how were our two lives two before we found each other? Were we really living, or were we just sleeping through life?

But when we do find love, it’s a melding of worlds into one, and our worlds become each other, don’t they? Hence the cartographic references in the third stanza, which are interesting metaphors for a love poem, aren’t they?

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