A LECTURE UPON THE SHADOW
John Donne was representative of the metaphysical poets of his time. He set the metaphysical mode by vibrancy of language and startling imagery, and a preference for a diction modeled on direct utterances. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic (later he converted to Anglicanism), and was Dean of St. Paul’s Church till his death. The total effect of a metaphysical poem at its best is to startle the reader into seeing and knowing what he has not really noticed or thought about before. Like all Donne’s poetry this poem too reflects an emphasis on the intellect and wit as against feeling and emotion.
Stand still and I will read to thee
A Lecture, Love, in loves philosophy,
These three houres that we have spent,
Walking here, Two shadowes went
Along with us, which we our selves produc’d;
But, now the Sunne is just above our head,
We doe those shadowes tread;
And to brave clearnesse all things are reduc’d.
So whilst our infant loves did grow,
Disguises did, and shadowes, flow,
From us, and our cares; but now ’tis not so.
That love hath not attain’d the high’st degree,
Which is still diligent lest others see.
Except our loves at this noone stay,
We shall new shadowes make the other way.
As the first were made to blinde
Others; these which come behinde
Will worke upon our selves, and blind our eyes.
If our loves faint, and westwardly decline;
To me thou, falsely thine;
And I to thee mine actions shall disguise.
The morning shadowes were away,
But these grow longer all the day,
But oh, loves day is short, if love decay.
Love is a growing, or full constant light; And his first minute, after noone, is night.