NPM: A Valediction

Tomorrow I am off to the mountains for a backpacking trip with some teenagers from my church. I am really looking forward to it, but I’m also a little uneasy about leaving my husband and my baby. Not because I’m worried something will happen to them– given my epic klutziness, they’ll no doubt be much safer with me more than 100 miles away. Just because this is typically an activity I do with my husband rather than without him. He’s my partner, and heading into the wild (Hey! There will be bears!) without him feels a little like leaving the house naked. So with this poem I’m reminding myself that it’s ok. I used to pull it out whenever he would deploy, but I’m a little out of practice now.

This poem is one of my very favorites, and one of the first I ever shared with my husband–before we were dating, even, just when we were still getting acquainted as friends. He is an engineer, a rocket scientist, and not given much to metaphor. This poem kind of blew his mind. We read it together, then I walked through it with him. It was like finding an undiscovered country for him. Alas, his experience with poetry has remained largely limited to this one poem, but I have to say, if you’re only going to have one poem in your life, this is a pretty good one. (It’s a long one, though, so make sure you’re in a comfy chair.)

Any significant moments with poetry in your relationships?

"Thy firmness makes my circle just,/ And makes me end where I begun."
“Thy firmness makes my circle just,/ And makes me end where I begun.”

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
by John Donne

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 of 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 our selves 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 airy 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 the other do.

And though it in the center 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.


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