Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Valediction, Forbidding Mourning
By John Donne (1572–1631)
 
AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
  And whisper to their souls to go;
While some of their sad friends do say,
  Now his breath goes, and some say, No;
 
So let us melt, and make no noise,        5
  No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
’Twere profanation of our joys
  To tell the laity our love.
 
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
  Men reckon what it did and meant;        10
But trepidations of the spheres, 1
  Though greater far, are innocent.
 
Dull sublunary lovers’ love,
  Whose soul is sense, cannot admit
Absence; for that it doth remove        15
  Those things which elemented it.
 
But we, by a love so far refined,
  That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
  Careless, eyes, lips and hands to miss,        20
 
—Our two souls therefore, which are one,
  Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
  Like gold to airy thinness beat.
 
If they be two, they are two so        25
  As stiff twin compasses are two; 2
Thy soul, the fixt foot, makes no show
  To move, but doth if th’ other do.
 
And though it in the centre sit,
  Yet when the other far doth roam,        30
It leans and hearkens after it,
  And grows erect as that comes home.
 
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
  Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circles just,        35
  And makes me end where I begun. 3
 
Note 1. Trepidation of the spheres: A motion which the Ptolemaic system of astronomy ascribes to the firmament to account for certain phenomena, really due to the motion of the axis of the earth. (Century Dictionary.) [back]
Note 2. As stiff twin compasses are two: “To the comparison of a man that travels and his wife that stays at home with a pair of compasses, it may be doubted whether absurdity or ingenuity has better claim.” (Dr. Johnson, Lives of the English Poets; Cowley.) “This figure of the compass is said to have been suggested by the impresa of old John Heywood, Donne’s maternal grandfather.” (Schelling, A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics.) [back]
Note 3. Lines 25–36, If they be two: These stanzas inspired Dr. Johnson’s famous passage on “the metaphysical poets,” a phrase which it is said he borrowed from a hint of Dryden’s. [back]
 
 
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