The Good Morrow by John Donne – Critical Summary


The poem “The Good Morrow” is amongst the best of metaphysical love poetry produced by John Donne. The poem begins with a question asked to the two lovers, the poet and his beloved; Donne asks “what thou and I did till we love?” The question is meaningful and needs no answer because the clearly indicates that the life before falling into love was no more than “country pleasures” like that of a child sucking his mother’s breast for survival. The child in sucking the mother’s breast is never aware of the world around him.

The poet goes on to compare himself and his beloved with the use of a conceit, far-fetched metaphor, of “Seven Sleepers’ Den” to express that their entire life was nothing more than unconscious life. Had they enjoyed any sort of pleasures and experienced joys, those were nothing but imagination. The poet opens up his heart in the praise of his beloved as:

“If ever any beauty I did see;

Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.”

The poet says good morrow to the “waking souls” of himself and his beloved because their past life, before they met, was all shadow and darkness of sleep. It is now, after meeting his beloved, that the poet feels his waking soul. The poet believes that a little love can convert even a small room into an entire world.

The poet wishes to ignore the world around him because he wants to be focused on his beloved alone. Therefore the sea discoverers may discover new worlds, maps be spread, but the poet must “possess one world” of the unity of lovers union. Donne creates a lovely equation here i.e. a lover is equal to beloved and the beloved is equal to lover. In other words, Donne’s mathematics would display the result of:

1 lover + 1 beloved = 1 love


1+1= 1

This is the equation which leads to the merger of lovers’ being into oneness:

“My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears”.

The poet even goes on to declare the two lovers as “two better hemispheres”.

John Donne has convinced us of the magical charms of love and the deeds of lovers which have the power to transform normal beings and casual acts into the evergreen stories; here the story is of a lover and beloved that has formed oneness of being through the pure love which is beyond physical.

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