John in two completely different ways. The main

John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” and Adrienne
Rich’s iteration of the poem contains distinguishable differences that
contrasts them from one another such as the scenario and the relationship that
is the prime focus. However, there a similarity between the two dives deeper
than just the title. The main theme of both poems are related, as both are
writings of separation. Though, not exactly the same, both provide an
interesting insight of two distinct individuals experiencing separation but in
two completely different ways. 

 

The main premise of Donne’s poem is the separation between two
star crossed lovers. However, this separation is not a death or an end of the
relationship, but a way for Donne to tell his lover that their love goes beyond
the physical world but rather transcends to something spiritual that only both
of them can comprehend. The poem has an ABAB rhyming pattern. The first two
stanzas of the poem set the tone for the reader as it describes Donne’s wishes
for his lover to feel no mourning despite their separation. On the very first
line of the poem, he refers to their love as “virtuous men pass mildly away”
(ln. 1), meaning he wants their sacred love to slowly die with no noise. He
wanted this “end” to be quiet enough that it is hard for others to understand
if they truly are over because of the overwhelming love they have for each
other still. He wants their love to end in a way where it is painless and
as if he did not go far, but still with her. Donne also makes a point
about others learning about their love by saying “Twere profanation of our joys
to tell the laity our love” (ln. 8), what he means is to openly mourn to
everyone else about their relationship ruins the mystery and purity of their
love. It is clear that the main focus of this poem is assurance for his wife
that their love knows no end. 

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On the other hand, Rich’s poem takes on a separating relationship but
in more literary terms. The poem has no rhyming pattern, but it breaks each
line up into a meaningful part of the poem in order to address the significance
of her words. Though sharing the same title of a poem dedicated to two lovers,
the separation that the main character is speaking of is not from a significant
other, but from men’s patriarchal dominance in literature at the time. This
poem symbolizes Rich wanting women poets and authors to stop conforming to
men’s standards in literature. Rich talks about “My swirling wants, your frozen
lips” (ln. 1). The “swirling wants” represents her creativity and the constant
surge of desires while the “frozen lips” represent silence and ignorance from
the audience, specifically men. Rich stresses that this hierarchy is torturing
her, instead of confidently expressing herself and being free she cannot because she
feels trapped by the pre-conceived notions of what female writers are capable
and incapable to say. This is made prominent by the multiple uses of literary
terms as metaphors in the first stanza. For example, she says “The grammar
turned and attacked me.  Themes, written under duress.” (ln. 2 and 3),
she is expressing her negative feelings about how she cannot truly write what
she feels without the topics being considered a threat or unimportant. An
example is women’s issues and rights as they were typically not taken as
seriously as a man’s. Lastly when Rich says, “They gave me a drug that slowed
the healing of wounds.” (ln. 5) she is referring to mental wounds and emotional
pain that was caused. Flesh wounds do not heal instantly even with the use of
drugs and it is the same with emotional scars. She is pointing out that instead
of men writers acknowledging the issues women writers raise, their close-minded
point of view furthermore slows down the process.

 

In conclusion, both poems possess ideas on what the “Forbidding of
Mourning” means. Donne’s version means to eliminate mourning between him and
his lover in order to preserve the virtue of their connection. Rich’s version
represents empowerment of women’s writing and to not conform to men’s beliefs.
Despite the similar titles, both poems tackle different issues and kinds of
relationships. Both poems successfully articulate the main theme in the opening
stanzas, which then gives the reader a better perspective of the relationship
within the lines of the poem. The passages from each respective poem further
aid in following the dynamic feelings of the characters. The literary devices
such as rhyming, and metaphor continuously highlight significant and crucial
parts of the poem. Such key aspects work together to bring the poem to life and
empathize with the relationships within them.