The Good Morrow: Poet & Context

The Good Morrow: Poet & Context

Poet & Context

  • John Donne was a leading figure of the metaphysical poets in the 17th-century.
  • He initially led a relatively reckless lifestyle, including spending lavishly, undertaking military expeditions, and secretly marrying which resulted in his dismissal from his job.
  • Later in his life, Donne experienced a religious transformation and became an Anglican preacher.
  • This combination of experiences informs the dual nature of his poetry – filled with eroticism and passion, yet also deep spiritual and existential inquiries.

“The Good Morrow”

  • “The Good Morrow” is one of Donne’s earliest works and is typically associated with his ‘love’ poetry rather than his ‘divine’ or ‘holy sonnets’.
  • The poem was most likely written during the early phase of his marriage to Anne More.
  • This was a period of great personal happiness for Donne and this love, contentment and joy is clearly reflected in much of his work from this period, including “The Good Morrow”.
  • The poem is an exploration of pure, spiritual love - a theme common in Donne’s early love poetry.
  • It showcases Donne’s passion for paradox, intellectual playfulness, and fondness for conceits, making it an exemplar of metaphysical poetry.
  • The speaker in the poem discusses a love so complete that it makes all previous experiences and all other people irrelevant, expressing a narrative of personal growth and awakening.
  • Donne’s exploration of love in this poem counters the common Renaissance comparison of love to a disease, offering instead a healthier, mutually satisfying vision of love.

Religious Context

  • Despite its categorisation as a love poem, there are subtle elements of Donne’s religious thoughts creeping into “The Good Morrow”.
  • Phrases such as ‘whatever dies, was not mixed equally’ resemble the Platonic theory of the soul and tie into Donne’s later religious musings.
  • Donne’s range of religious feelings, including fear of judgement, longing for closeness with God, and the struggle with doubt, would become more prominent in his later works.

Social and Historical Context

  • During the time Donne was writing, there were strict social conventions including the objectification of women. Donne often countered these conventions by glorifying women and portraying reciprocal love relationships.
  • Donne’s bold exploration of sexual and romantic love was unusual for his time, and may be a reflection of his personal beliefs and experiences.
  • The Renaissance era was a time of great exploration and discovery. This real-world exploration is mirrored in “The Good Morrow” through intellectual exploration of the self and one’s place in the world.