The Good-Morrow, insights, themes and ideas for interpretation
The poem describes a greeting between the poet and his lover, an early-morning moment of togetherness and mutual regard.
To paraphrase, from what might seem at the outset to be quite challenging 17th-century verse, the poet is drawing upon various strands of symbolism and popular wisdom to emphasise the oneness that can exist between separate, often opposite forces of nature.
Love, as experienced by the poet at this moment, is perceived as a perfect example of this ‘oneness’ - a redeeming, ennobling state, particularly when compared to the lustful immaturities of the poet’s past. But in so doing he is perhaps also suggesting that even these two disparate forces, the devotional and the erotic, can be reconciled.
Jealousy and fear are overcome, therefore, because true love is so strong that it can regulate and accommodate temptations or wayward tendencies even among those who might stray.
All these qualities are best when mixed equally, and through a state of harmony between lovers a measure of immortality and eternal existence might be possible. This is why the piece is sometimes termed ‘a metaphysical’ or ‘a mystical poem’ - because its message transcends the world of physical experience. A wonderful poem and definitely ‘food for thought.’
John Donne was born in England in 1572, and died in 1631. His family was Catholic at a difficult time following the upheaval of the Reformation and counter-Reformation.
A lawyer by profession, he also became a member of parliament. But his career was dogged by the prevailing anti-Catholic sentiment of the times, and eventually he converted to the Anglican faith.
He married in 1601 under somewhat controversial circumstances - facing disapproval from his father-in-law. It was, in fact, a happy marriage, but his wife, Anne, though younger, did not survive him and she died shortly after the birth of their 12th child.
With increasing enthusiasm for his adopted faith, he became Dean of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral in 1621.
Although his verse often focuses on metaphysical issues, it can also be highly Romantic in nature. It draws upon the cultural changes prevalent in English society at the time - geographical expansion, new worlds of discovery, new ideas and theories of humanity’s place in the universe. The poem featured here is a good example of the effects these developments had on the way people thought.
Type of Poem = though sometimes termed a 'sonnet,' the poem is very unlike most regular sonnet forms, being in this instance 3 stanzas of 7 lines each.
Rhyme Scheme = AB AB CCC
Meter = mostly iambic pentameter (that is 5 pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables per line) but concluding each stanza in iambic hexameter (six pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables per line)