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John Donne

The Good Morrow

More challenging questions!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 24 June 2012
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It would appear that Donne was a great womaniser and so, apart from his sermons, he also became renowned for his many love poems. These, however, were of mixed content and it is very difficult to conclude what the poet actually felt about love.

Sometimes he spoke of love as though it were a religious experience, the uniting of two souls through the uniting of two bodies. At other times, he appears caught up almost purely in the sexual side of it. Sometimes his views in one poem would seem to be contradicted by those expressed in another.


John Donne, having attended both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, would have been well versed in Greek philosopher Plato and his Theory of Ideas.

Indeed, it does seem that the poet shows influences of Plato within this poem.

Plato postulated that we are like beings who are confined to a cave. The world we see, therefore, is not the real world but rather a world of shadows and reflections.

The real world is behind us but we are unable to turn around and view it. The sun is God (or Truth or Goodness) but, because we cannot ever see the sun, we can only philosophise on its nature.

The shadows are but reflections of the real world. Since we cannot see this real world, we can only reflect upon it and thereby come to rational assumptions about that world.

In the poem, Donne hints at this cave world of Plato on two occasions.

The first is the reference to the "Seven Sleepers' den" -- a legend of seven Christian youths who were locked away in a cave by the Roman Emperor for refusing to denounce their faith.

They would stay in that cave for almost 200 years before being released. In the same way, the two lovers have only lived in a world of shadow-love and have never experienced the real thing until now.

The second hint is the poet's reflection upon his Lady-Love as being the ideal of Beauty. Just as in the cave, we see only shadows, so in real life we see only reflections of Beauty (the sun).

The poet's Lady-Love, however, is the real thing, the goddess to whom all other beauty is compared.

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?
  • What does the poet mean when he speaks of, "But suck'd we on country pleasures, childishly"? (4)

[Need help?]

The "Seven Sleepers' den" refers to a legend of seven Christian youths who were locked away in a cave by the Roman Emperor for refusing to denounce their faith. They would stay in that cave for almost 200 years before being released.
  • Explain, however, the significance of using the word "snorted" in this regard. (4)

[Need help?]

'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
  • What does the poet mean when he says, "All pleasures fancies be"? (4)

[Need help?]

If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.
  • What point is the poet making with these words? (4)

[Need help?]

For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
  • Is this a true reflection of love? (4)

[Need help?]

Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally.
  • What is meant by this line? Do you think this is a fair reflection of love? (4)

[Need help?]


Are the poet's sentiments serious -- or is he being somewhat tongue-in-cheek? (4)

[Need help?]

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