The Differences between Good Morrow and Elizabethan Love Poems

As a poet belonging to the metaphysical school of thought it was a characteristic tendency of Donne to defy the Petrarchan trends that were observed in the 16th century poetry which followed a highly refined convention on love. ‘The Good Morrow’ is in great contrast to the other Elizabethan love poems written by Donne’s predecessors owing to its style and differential treatment of love.

Good Morrow’s approach to the theme of love is very different from the approach of 16th century poets like Wyatt, Surrey, Sydney and Spenser. Petrarchan love poetry is riddled with frustration, hopelessness and loss as the mistress is mostly unavailable or is indifferent to the advancement of the poets making their love forever unfulfilled. The pursuit of love of these poets and the angst caused by it forms the theme of their poetry instead of the actual fulfillment of love. Good Morrow is in stark contrast to this theme. The bonds of love which the poet and his beloved share blinds the couple to the world around them and they become one entity thus enjoying the beautiful experience of love which is both spiritual and physical.

The Elizabethan poets portray their object of love to be angelic and unattainable such as Sidney’s ‘Stella’ and Spenser’s ‘Amoretti’ whereas Donne’s mistress in ‘The Good Morrow’ is made of flesh and blood with whom he has shared satisfying moments of love.

Since the divine mistresses of the Petrarchan poets are always unavailable the tone of loneliness and separation is very strong in their poetry as in Sir Philip Sydney’s ‘Loving In Truth’. This feeling of loneliness is never perceptible in Good Morrow because here the feeling of oneness with the mistress is predominant. “My face in thine eyes, thine in mine appears”.

Good Morrow deviates from the traditional 16th century poetry on the grounds of structure and style in more ways than one.

Instead of addressing his mistress in ornate or elevated language, Donne speaks to her with a colloquial simplicity and a down to earth language to show that the lovers are close to each other – “I wonder by my troth what thou and I did till we loved each other?”

Petrarchan poets showcased subjectivity when it came to penning their emotions whereas Donne’s approach is objective and rational. His intellect controls his emotions and he has established his theme of emotional and spiritual greatness of love through a dramatic thought progression that flows through the poem.

The conceits employed by Elizabethan poets were tender and moving whereas the conceits with which Donne has clothed Good Morrow strike us more because of their ingenuity as opposed to their justness because they are established by violently fusing two very heterogeneous elements in a single matrix. “Or snorted we in seven sleeper’s den” sheds light upon the poet’s pre-love days.

The courtly poets gave expression to their love through classical allusions but in Good Morrow the allusiveness rests upon wider areas of life like geography, astronomy, mythology and medieval alchemy.

Donne’s innovativeness can be perceived in both his development of the theme as well as the structure and style of Good Morrow. It is he who had set the trend of making love poetry more realistic and a humane.

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