John Donne: Poems

swetest love i do not go.

explain: they who one another keepe alive, ne'r parted bee.

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The poet tells his beloved that he is not leaving because he is tired of the relationship—instead, he must go as a duty. After all, the sun departs each night but returns every morning, and he has a much shorter distance to travel. The third stanza suggests that his duty to leave is unstoppable; man’s power is so feeble that good fortune cannot lengthen his life, while bad fortune will shorten it. Indeed, fighting bad fortune only shares one’s strength with it. As the beloved sighs and cries, the lover complains that if he is really within her, she is the one letting him go because he is part of her tears and breath. He asks her not to fear any evil that may befall him while he is gone, and besides, they keep each other alive in their hearts and therefore are never truly parted.