How does “The Good-Morrow” reflect the social and scientific development of the Elizabethan age?
Donne's status as a “Metaphysical Poet” means he was interested in the changes occurring during the Elizabethan era. Elements in “The Good-Morrow” are concerned with several then-contemporary developments. The first stanzas deal with the development of independent faith in the age. The love felt by the speaker is reflected in the idealized form of the bucolic countryside and the figures of the Seven Sleepers. The second stanza is interested in the "age of discovery," in which America was explored. The “sea-discoverers,” “new worlds,” and “maps to others” are all allusions to the discovery of the so-called "new world." Those symbols of exploration match the love felt by the speaker. Other allusions to the age of discovery are the phrases “two better hemispheres,” “sharp north,” and “declining west.” All three allude to the compass, a crucial tool for navigation. Overall, "The Good-Morrow" is rife with allusions to the age of discovery, and these allusions constitute an extended analogy between geographical exploration and the speaker's discovery of new love.
What role do Christian thought and theology play in John Donne's "The Good-Morrow"?
Though the significance faith held for Donne is evident throughout his work, during his life his writings and beliefs earned him a reputation as a "heretic," and "The Good-Morrow" in many ways exemplifies why. In writing the poem, it's clear that Donne took inspiration from the concepts of "love" and "unity" as developed within the Christian theological/philosophical tradition, the major works of which would have constituted the bulk of his formal education. The triad of lover-beloved-love—a combination of three that ultimately constitutes a unified "one"—is, for example, arguably a romantic iteration of the Christian Holy Trinity. Donne, however, unlike some of his more doctrinaire contemporaries, isn't interested in demonstrating the superior nature of the love of or for God/Christ. Instead, what he offers is a rumination on the nature of regular, human-to-human connection, enriched by his engagement with Christian thought. In that sense, "The Good-Morrow" can be seen as a fascinating, highly original synthesis of the religious genre of the "conversion narrative" (e.g., Saint Augustine's Confessions), secular renaissance love poetry, thus creating an introspective, philosophical poetry that foreshadows many of the preoccupations of the so-called Enlightenment of the 18th century.