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John Donne

The Good Morrow

Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 24 June 2012
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This is a love poem where the poet explores the apparent depth of perfection to which his love and that of his partner's stretches.


John Donne -- pronounced "Dunn" -- was born in London in 1572. His was a wealthy Catholic family.

It was the time of the English Reformation, however, which meant that being a Catholic carried onerous restrictions.

For example, although Donne went to both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, he could not graduate without taking the Oath of Supremacy, something which he refused at the time to do.

His father left him a sizeable inheritance. He was a known womaniser, however, and made the dreadful mistake of marrying one of these women in secret.

This caused his father-in-law to throw him into prison, refusing to pay his daughter's dowry.

The disgrace saw Donne cast out of a promising prosperous career. To mark this tragedy, Donne wrote his now famous three line poem:
John Donne,
Anne Donne,

It would take some ten years for the breach to heal and Donne's fortunes to look up.

At about this time the poet also decided to renounce the Catholic Church, probably because of the advantages that being an Anglican would offer him.

His anti-Catholic writings soon caught the eye of King James himself who believed that Donne would be a good churchman.

The poet, it seems, was then forced into taking Holy Orders against his will but nevertheless became famous for the quality of the sermons which he preached.

Anne Donne died in 1617 while giving birth to their twelfth child. The poet's own life would take on a sickly hue from then on, until he himself died in 1631.

Donne lived when the Voyages of Discovery were at their peak and talk was abounding of the New World in the Americas.

Dinner parties would be dominated by maps showing the expansion of the British Empire versus the regions being occupied by the Spaniards and the French.

It is this talk and these maps which are alluded to in this poem.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

I WONDER by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? were we not wean'd till then?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.
  • Rewrite in your own words, "I wonder by my troth". (2)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the poet's expression, "Were we not wean'd till then?" Is the poet referring to being weaned from the mother's breast? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Identify the various language devices used in this opening stanza. (4)

[Need help?]

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.
  • What is meant by "good-morrow"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why would "our waking souls" not "watch one another out of fear"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the significance of the lines, "Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone; | Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown." (4)

[Need help?]

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.
  • What is meant by the two "hemispheres"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What does the poet mean when he says that these two hemispheres are "without sharp north, without declining west"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Rephrase the lines, "If our two loves be one, or thou and I love so alike that none can slacken, none can die." (4)

[Need help?]

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