The Spherical Image as the Central Paradox in Valediction: for Weeping
In John Donne's "A Valediction: for Weeping," the speaker consoles his lover before leaving on a sea voyage and begs her not to cry. Crying, the speaker tells his lover this poem at the docks before he boards his ship going abroad. Donne uses a spherical image as the central metaphor in his poem. When Donne uses irony, paradox, and hyperbole including the use of round images such as: coins, globes, and tears he strengthens the spherical conceit. By comparing two "seeming" opposites like tears and love as his conceit, Donne uses the spherical image as the central paradox in "A Valediction: Of Weeping."
Donne opens the poem with the speaker crying while talking to his lover before his departure abroad. His first spherical images are in the first stanza, and they are tears and coins:
"Let me pour forth
My tears before thy face whilst I stay here,
For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear,
And by this mintage they are something worth," (1-4)
Both the coins and his tears have "worth," literal and figurative values respectively. His tears fall from his face because he hurts for leaving, something no amount of coins can pay to alleviate. Like coins being stamped out of a sheet of metal, his tears are pressed from his eyes. Because water reflects her image and tears are made out of water, the stamp image has a double meaning too. The tears equal the lover. The mintage mentioned in line four has an expanded meaning. A set of pressed coins is a mintage as is the set of the speaker's tears, but the impression on the coin (the lover's face) can also be a mintage.
As the beginning of the stanza opens with a circular image, the second half of the stanza includes even more circular images:
"For thus they be
Pregnant of thee;
Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more--
When a tear falls, that Thou falls which it bore,
So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore." (5-9)
First, the speaker says the tears, because they bear the lover's face, are pregnant of her (a sick, but round image used for comparison). The fruit and the emblem are round images describing their tears, the emblem symbolizes both the literal round image and the lover's face (the tear bears her "emblem" or face). As the tear bearing her image falls, the speaker fears the ending of their love if she cries, as the speaker states: "So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore" (9). In the second stanza, the speaker tries to convince her that they are still together, even when they are separated, and begs her not to weep.
The second stanza opens with a ball image forming out of nothing into a globe. A worker can take "a round ball . . .and quickly make that, which was nothing, all" (12). The globe and...