For World Poetry Day, I wrote about learning poems by heart and asked readers to share any they love and have learned. This came back from Tanya, about a beautiful and difficult poem by John Donne, The Good-Morrow. I like the complex reasons she cherishes this poem, from the poem itself to the way it was taught.
‘Referring to your question about your readers’ favourite poems – too hard! There are poems that seem to match the many shades and variations of moods, whims and between-moods that I experience. One I keep coming back to is the Good Morrow, by John Donne. It is also one of the few poems that I can remember mostly by heart. It speaks to me on lots of levels and I absolutely love in particular how Donne brings together such beautiful words and weaves science metaphors throughout! I am a science geek at heart but this poem gives me license to be a word and science geek all at once.
I also just find it absolutely wonderful how the words fit together and flow. Just read it out loud to see what I mean. A final reason why I love this poem is how it was taught to me by my outstanding high school English teacher. She helped us to unpick the hidden meanings and brillance in the poems she taught to us and then helped us to stitch them back together to appreciate the same poems as a whole experience. This poem brings back not just fond memories of her, but also a sense of gratitude for what she taught me about poetry.’
‘And now good morrow to our waking souls…’
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I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked 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.
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.
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 mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.
The Good-Morrow – John Donne (1573-1631)