Evaluation of the Poems: Holy Sonnets Ix Vs. a Valediction Forbidding Mourning
TP-CASTT: Holy Sonnets IX
Title: I read the title as signifying that there would be some sort of religious questioning happening in the poem. I also assumed that this was one of a number of poems in this “Holy Sonnets” series, probably because the poet had a lifelong battle of faith in which he asked many questions to solidify his beliefs.
Paraphrase: If minerals which are evil, a tree which has done evil, goats which are sexually evil, and serpents who are always evil can roam the world without being punished, why should humans be? Why is it that my ability to think and reason makes my actions punishable? It is easy to have mercy, so why does God not practice it? Yet, I am just a lowly human and have no right to contest the will of God. I hope that my tears will allow you to be forgetful towards my sins so that your memory of me is not plagued with them. It would be merciful of you to forget my sins.
Connotation: The poet begins the poem with an assertively questioning air. He interrogates God as to how “poisonous minerals,” the Tree of Knowledge, “lecherous goats,” and envious serpents may all walk the Earth unpunished for their sins when humans consistently receive repercussions for their heinous acts. This causes the reader to ponder for themselves the same question, and to think of other examples of how unfair it might seem for God to only punish humans. The poem’s questioning air continues with more rhetorical questions to God. The poet uses the rhetorical device known as apostrophe to address God, even though he is not really there to answer those questions. This shows that the speaker has probably spent much time pondering these questions and has probably searched out responses from many well-known men of faith. I figure this because one does not simply go directly to God each time they have a question about something in their faith, they would first seek out the wisdom of lower leaders. The poet also acknowledges that he probably shouldn’t be questioning God as he is, “But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee?” The following line shows how the speaker has been reduced to pleading with God, as he describes that his tears shall form a Lethean flood. Lethe is a reference to a mythical river which caused total forgetfulness, and therefore the speaker hopes that his tears will cause God to forget his sins. The poem ends on a less inquisitive note, and more of a begging note as the speaker asks that God not taint his memory of the speaker with “sin’s black memory” but rather have mercy and forget his sins.
Attitude: The poem starts off in an inquisitive state as the speaker ponders the many idiosyncrasies he sees within his own faith. He is not condemning them, but rather seeks answer to his deep and though-provoking questions. The speaker gets more and more energetic with his words as he continues on into lines 4-6. After line 8, the speaker realizes he has overstepped his place as a human and turns to a more pleading attitude of asking forgiveness rather than demanding it. He has provided his points and now see that he may have been a bit too upfront about them as he got carried away in a fit of excited interrogation. The poem ends with an attitude of pleading as the speaker asks that the God reconsider his previous stance and be more forgiving of the sins of humans.
Shifts: The main shift in the poem occurs in line 9, “But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee?” In saying this, the speaker moves away from questioning God on his practice of holding rational creatures accountable for their actions while creatures that don’t think are not responsible for their sins to pleading that God overlook the sins of the rational beings as well.
Title: The title does, in fact, represent a religious debate between the speaker and his faith. I also assume that it was correct to think that it is one of a series of poems which all serve a similar purpose.
Theme: The theme of this poem is one of forgiveness. The speaker believes that Christ’s bllod was meant to wash away the sins of humans so that all may be forgotten when they are brought to the afterlife.
TP-CASTT: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
Title: The title of this poem to me implies that it will be someone who is less than emotional and wishes that those around him would also stop being emotional and stop “mourning.” I also think that it will be a well-constructed piece because of the title “valediction.”
Paraphrase: Old men do die, even as some people wish they did not. We should not make a fuss when we must part ways. Our distance will not be the end of the world, as it has proven not to be before. People who love only skin deep cannot stand the distance because they don’t love anything but the presence of that person there. Our love is much deeper than that, so that it can be felt across the great distance. Our souls are still one, just with a space between. If we are not meant to be together, then the distance will show us so. We will feel the need for one another across our distance, and yearn for our reunification. I will, without a doubt, always come back.
Connotation: Donne begins with a metaphor in which he compares the departing of a loved one to the peaceful death of an old man. He effectively states that the depart should be so peaceful that it is like the death of an old man that is so peaceful that his old friends can’t even tell when he is gone. This is an excellent mood setter for the rest of the poem, and truly shows off donne’s romantic side. Donne then complements this metaphor with an extended analogy extending into the second stanza. He states that old men are to peaceful death as “our love is to easy parting.” He also compares their departure and sadness to the melting of snow, the “tear-floods,” and “sigh-tempests” which are all hyperboles along the same lines as the modern “cry me a river.” Donne continues with his metaphorical natural events in lines 9 and 10 when he compares their departure to the violence and disruption caused by an earthquake, saying that they should not cause that large of a disruption. Donne then opens up a large juxtaposition between the noticeable earthquakes and their temporary hysteria and the unnoticed celestial bodies and their profound impact on everything people do. In this metaphor, earthquakes are to shallow lovers as the celestial bodies are to Donne and his wife. People in these shallow relationships only love one another for the physical attractions, while Donne’s love is much deeper than that as they are connected by their minds. Donne uses synecdoche in line 20 as he states “eyes, lips, and hands to miss” as parts of the body represent the whole issue of people only loving based on attraction, turning a person into a sex-symbol rather than a life partner. Donne uses paradox by saying our “two souls” are “one” which causes the realization that they are truly bonded for life. Donne continues his metaphysical comparisons by comparing to his love to gold which can be stretched to a very thin level and still not break, unlike other metals, implying that his love with his wife will stretch farther distances than most and yet not break. Donne wraps up his poem with an extended metaphor of him and his wife both being parts of the same mathematical compass: his wife is the center and he is the part that goes round in circles about her, yet he always comes back.
Attitude: The speaker in this poem is quite sagacious and yet still loving. He is not the smoothest guy on the block, with his comparisons of love to old men dying, but it is evident that he is in love to last. The attitude of the poem remains relatively constant throughout, as he nitpicks the romance of others in favor of his deep, soul-bound connection with his wife.
Shifts: The only major shift in the poem is quite low-key, as Donne transitions from a professional lawyer type poet trying to win a case to end on a soft, tender note for his wife at the end of the poem.
Title: The title now means that the people should not mourn excessively over the leaving of their love, as if they are truly strongly in love then they will always be together in spirit.
Theme: One of the major themes of this poem is true love. Donne sees the infatuation of others as they mourn the leaving of their loves, and knows that they are not truly in love. He knows this because they only love one another when they are each present, signifying that they only love their flesh. Donne’s relationship is his ideal love, in which they have a spiritual connection that goes further than skin deep and can last across the distance they are separated by.
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