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Grunes, D. (1976). John Donne's “The Good-Morrow”. Am. Imago, 33(3):261-265.

(1976). American Imago, 33(3):261-265

John Donne's “The Good-Morrow”

Dennis Grunes, Ph.D.

John Donne's “The Good-Morrow” is the one great morning after the wedding night poem of our language. No mere celebration of bliss, however, it speaks with a deeply troubled voice, for all its verbal dexterity and fashionable wit. While it may actually belong to the same juvenile period that bore “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” there is in it (for me at least) none of the flighty, jocular tone of that last-minute anticipation of satisfied lust; so I would move it ahead a bit to where it belongs, in any event, psychologically. Indeed, the beloved addressed in “The Good-Morrow” must be Anne More Donne, who, with the poet's mother, was one of the two omnipresent women in his life, married in daredevil secret and treasured long after she had passed away: not a wife only but a soul-mate too, with whom Donne feels complete and with whom he wishes to remain “one” forever.

In a sense, the poem is a fulfillment of this wish against which a remembered (or reimagined) event works to deprive reality of the dream. For hadn't Donne experienced this “oneness” before—but not for all time—with his mother? His infantile dependency on this first wondrous love is, of course, what he refers to when he says he has “sucked on country pleasures” (3). In context, though, he is asking his new love a series of questions pointing to the infancy they distantly shared:

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? (1-4)

The Seven Sleepers' den is a legendary cave that sheltered seven Christian youths hiding from the Romans. They remained in safe slumber there for two hundred years.

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