The Good Morrow Analyzed – Subject Matter, Themes & Poetic Devices

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Let’s do an in depth analysis of The Good Morrow, a poem by the metaphysical poet, John Donne.

This tutorial will help you to get a proper understanding of the subject matter, themes and poetic devices in John Donne’s poem The Good Morrow.

Background Information

The setting of this monologue is an early morning. This may remind you of The Sun Rising, another poem by the same poet.

This is a poem about a love relationship between two people. The speaker is one of this pair and he reflects on the nature of their love.

The poem is made up of three stanzas

Subject Matter: Stanza One

In the first stanza of The Good Morrow, the persona is so much carried away by the passion of this new love that he wonders whether there was any existence for them prior to this.

Without waiting for an answer, the persona concludes that that earlier life could not be anything substantive. It could only be

  • A childlike experience of no substance and no seriousness
  • A dreamlike experience which wouldn’t be anywhere near the profound love life they now have
  • A life of no meaning – a life lived in a state of sleep.

Stanza Two

Now that they have woken from that sleep to a true and pleasurable love, the persona greets the persona with a “good morrow” (that is, good morning).

The beginning of this relationship marks the start of a new and truly meaningful existence for them.

The aspects of this love that the persona speaks about in the second stanza include the following:

  • No fears, no inhibitions – they are prepared to fully explore this love relationship which is their new world.
  • Total, universal love – their love is their world, and their world, their love
  • Meaningful love – theirs is the kind of love that gives true meaning to their existence. It is as if to say without it there is no existence for them.

Stanza Three

The two lovers have become one. Each can see the other in their own eyes. Thus, nothing separates them anymore.

Their love is authentic and real. There is no room for pretense nor inhibitions.

It is a love relationship that is fresh, warm and eternal.

Theme

The central theme that dominates all else in The Good Morrow is the profoundness of love. The poet writes about such qualities of love as

  • The pleasures of love
  • The wholeness or completeness of love between two people
  • The unifying quality of love

Poetic Devices

We will continue our analysis of the poem The Good Morrow by examining the various poetic devices that the poet employs to convey his themes.

Diction and Imagery

The language of the Good Morrow is archaic. Words and expressions from an earlier period of English usage occur frequently in the poem. Examples are

Good morrow

Thou

Thee

Hath

Thine

This is simply because the poet was a contemporary writer in that particular period in the history of English.

Exploratory and discovery imagery

Expressions that bring this forth include

World

Sea-discoveries

Maps to other worlds

Better hemispheres

North

West

Again, the images of sailing across the seas to the far corners of the world that keep coming up in the poem are a reference to the historical developments of that time.

This was a period of ambitious sea voyages in search of previously unknown places of human existence.

Images of the wholeness and unifying quality of love

Expressions that convey this imagery include:

Thine … mine

Two better hemispheres

One

Metaphor

The whole poem is built around one extended metaphor. It is a comparison of the new love to the experience of waking up from one long deep sleep of nothingness.

Therefore, the poet only uses the title, “The Good Morrow”, metaphorically.

He is in no way referring to any bright sunny morning. Rather, just like a new morning, the relationship, to him, has ushered in the beginning of a fresh and a most substantive period in the lives of the lovers.

Conceit

Conceit is a literary device of an extended and exaggerated metaphor or comparison between two very dissimilar things. The poet uses such striking comparisons the poet to emphasize a point.

John Donne is a metaphysical poet. True to his reputation, therefore, the poet, in The Good Morrow, makes a couple of outlandish, hyperbolic comparisons.

Examples:

And makes our little room everywhere

Here, the love and the room of passion that the lovers occupy is compared to the whole universe. This is an exaggerated way of saying that with their love, nothing else matters in the rest of the outside world.

Let us possess our world

Their love is compared to the whole world. Now the persona and his lover are going to explore their world (their hemisphere) from north to west.

Rhetorical Question

Example

Were we not weaned till then?

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Apostrophe

Example

Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

Inversion

Examples

If ever any beauty I did see

And true plain hearts do in the faces rest

Parallelism

Example

Let sea-discoveries 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.

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Ralph spends his day working as an online educator, a freelance website designer, web content manager and WordPress trainer. Ralph is the CEO of RN Digital Media Ent. He publishes on CegastAcademy.com and BloggingtotheMax.

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