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I rarely like to rely on posting someone else’s work to fill up a blog entry, but it is Valentine’s Day and I don’t feel awake or articulate enough to write something that would do justice to the love that I have shared with my wife  over the last eleven years.  I’m a decent writer, and even in the best state of mind it would take me days to make something worthy of Erin, and I would need to learn words from a few other languages just to express it all properly.

I will share with you, instead, a poem by John Donne.  It is one of my absolute favourites, and it is one of the first poems I shared with Erin after we met.  I won’t bore you with an extended analysis, but it is worth looking up commentary on this piece if you don’t immediately pick up the extended metaphor of the compass.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


John Donne (1572-1631)

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning


As virtuous men pass mildly away,

And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say

The breath goes now, and some say, No:


So let us melt, and make no noise,

No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,

‘Twere profanation of our joys

To tell the laity our love.


Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,

Men reckon what it did and meant,

But trepidation of the spheres,

Though greater far, is innocent.


Dull sublunary lovers’ love

(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

Those things which elemented it.


But we by a love so much refined

That ourselves know not what it is,

Inter-assured of the mind,

Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.


Our two souls therefore, which are one,

Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to aery thinness beat.


If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two;

Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if th’ other do.


And though it in the centre sit,

Yet when the other far doth roam,

It leans and hearkens after it,

And grows erect, as that comes home.


Such wilt thou be to me, who must

Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And makes me end where I begun.