John Donne's A Valediction of my Name, In the Window

Powerful Essays
John Donne's A Valediction of my Name, In the Window

"My name engraved herein/Doth contribute its firmness to this glass" (1-2). It is a small but exquisitely considered act - a man carefully etches his name into a window, hoping to preserve his identity for future generations. Immediately, sensory details flow into my mind at the thought of such a momentous event. The precise scratch of the tool, the small flakes of glass that chip away, the beams of sunlight backlighting my own name in blinding pinpoints of sharp white light - all ignite a visceral feeling in the depths of my consciousness. By basing "A Valediction of my Name, In the Window" around the instinct for self-preservation, John Donne forces me to immediately sympathize with the struggle for remembrance. Just as my interpretation of the poem shifts outward from a simple physical act to a battle for posterity that has consumed humanity through all generations, Donne's description of this single-man struggle quickly moves from the physical to the metaphysical- he believes that he "contribute[s] his firmness" (2) to the glass by scrawling his name, hopes that his lover's eye will see a glimmer from her beloved's name more impressive and stunning than the myriad reflections of precious stones, and suggests that in the carving "you see me, and I am you" (12). Now once again I must force myself to take a leap of faith off the precipice of poetical interpretation, by accepting that one can find deeper meaning in the carefully scratched letters of a name in a window. Or, is it the instinct for preservation that Donne holds to be a pool of deeper meaning? After two stanzas, the author's well-formed conceit has already wrestled my mind into conf...

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... life in the process. In only 66 lines, Donne uses his masterful command of the English language to create a superb poetical representation of his personal beliefs about love.


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