The Good-Morrow

The Good-Morrow Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Dawn/Awakening (Motif)

Morning, and the experience of “waking up,” is the dominant motif of the poem, and the poet identifies this motif with the experience of love in a variety of ways. “Good-Morrow” is simply an archaic version of “good morning,” and so the title (“The Good-Morrow”) can be seen as referring to either/both a greeting or a specific “morning” that is “good.” Starting with the title, this motif runs throughout. The speaker and his lover's souls are “waking”; the lines “My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears” evoke an image of waking up next to one another; and the “hemispheres” of the speaker and his lover's world exclude that of the “declining west” (i.e., where the sun sets, as opposed to rises).

Seven Sleepers (Allegory)

Donne’s allusion to the religious parable of the “Seven Sleepers” functions as an allegory for the situation of the lovers in the poem. The parable recounts how seven Christians, escaping persecution by the Romans, took shelter in a cave, but their pursuers ended up blocking the entrance and trapping them inside. Hundreds of years later, the cave was reopened, and they emerged, miraculously, unharmed, as though they’d merely been asleep. In the meantime, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman empire. Having been “asleep,” the speaker and his lover now awaken, miraculously, to a world remade by their love, just as the sleepers awoke to find the world remade by the faith for which they had once been persecuted.

Discovery (Motif)

Since Donne was writing in the 16th century, we can read his repeated references to the globe, the hemispheres, and the “sea-discoverers” of “other worlds” as a response to the period of ongoing exploration of the Americas. For Donne, however, the discovery of the so-called “New World” pales in comparison to the renewed world as it appears to those in love. For the lovers, one “little room” is more expansive than all the “worlds on worlds” charted on maps.