John Donne (1572-1631) was an English poet and cleric in the Church of England. He was a metaphysical poet famous for his songs, poems, and sonnets. From his collection of love poems, one is “Sweetest love, I do not goe”. In this poem or song, he addressed his wife Anne Moore who is crying and heartbroken when the poet was departing for somewhere. He consoles his wife that their love is immortal. The poem illustrates the idea that if two people are truly in love, even death cannot set them apart. Each line of the poem completely gives a glimpse of the love and emotion of Donne for his wife. Below is the poem summary and critical analysis.
In the first stanza, the poet compares his separation from his beloved wife with death. He addressed his wife as “sweetest love” which shows his intense emotion of love for his wife. He explains to his lover that he is not going away as he is tired of the relationship or does not love his wife.Nor he is leaving with any hope that he would get better love than her in any part of the world. In further lines, he says that since death is inevitable, and he must die one day. He wants when death comes, he is fully prepared to face it. Poet is separating himself from his lover as it is a best way to face death. Hence in this stanza poet means that he loves his wife from the bottom of his heart and being away from her is more like death.
In the second stanza, the poet uses the sun as a metaphor to develop an analogy between his journey and the movement of the sun. He says yesterday the sun sets and darkness appears. But again, it is here today with a new morning leaving the darkness and sadness behind. In the next line, he says that the sun has neither desire nor sense. If the sun can complete its long journey around the world and come back, then so could the poet. Poet consoles his lover not to fear and trust him. He would complete a shorter journey and come back because unlike the sun he has more desire and reason to come back. And the reason is their love for each other. Thus, in this stanza, the poet explains that he has no option and must go. But he also cannot live without his lover and would come back soon.
In the third stanza, Donne ironically describes human power. He feels miserable that how weak human power is. When good fortune comes, one cannot add more time to this good part of life.One also cannot bring back the lost good times of life. But when bad time comes in, we face that phase with all our strength. We extend the length of the bad time by worrying about it. But if we teach bad time a good lesson then this bad fortune will not much hamper the rest of our life. Thus, the poet wants to say that good and bad days are a part of life. One should welcome both phases because whatever happens had to happen. One should not waste time thinking about tomorrow and should enjoy the present by winning the bad fortune with all the strength.
In the fourth stanza, the poet again shows his intense love for his wife. He says when his lover breathes, she does not only breathe in air or oxygen. Instead, she takes his soul away. In the next line, he explains the crying of this wife as both kind and unkind. He used the word kind because her cry shows her love towards the poet and the pain of their separation. But at the same time seeing her crying kills the poet bit by bit and thus this is unkind when she cries and her tears fall. On that poet says his blood sheds. In the next line again the poet requests his love not to cry. He says that if you love me as you say then please do not cry. Her weeping makes the poet died. Hence the poet explains in this stanza that he and his wife are like two bodies and one soul. If his wife is sad, he is sad. If something happens to his wife, he would also die.
In the last stanza, the poet finally gives a sweet warning to his wife to think positively about him and is departing. He addressed his beloved wife’s heart as divine and pure. He made a plea to his lover to not bring any bad thoughts about him and their parting situation. As sometimes, destiny plays its part and the most fearful thought of her can come true. Instead, he suggests his beloved to think that we are together every day and night. We are sleeping together just facing our back towards each other. In the next line, the poet says that our love for each other keeps us alive. We are living in each other’s hearts and we are not separable. Thus, the poet finally says their love is immortal. No matter what happens he will always be with his beloved wife. If he is not physically present, then his soul and this love will always be alive inside his wife’s heart.
“Sweetest Love I Do Not Goe” shows John Donne’s art of metaphysical poetry. He portrayed the pain of separation from a loved one as death. With each line, the poet’s battle between his mind and heart is clear. He explains nature by creating an analogy. He ironically explained good and bad fortune, tears as both unkind and kind. He followed a rhythmic pattern with a systemic number of lines in each stanza to explain divine love and the harsh truth of death or separation. “The sun”, “the wings”, “destiny”, “fortune”, “divine” and “blood” in the poem added flavor to Donne’s metaphysical poetry. Overall his poem is a delightful gift for his readers.