A Lecture Upon the Shadow
Prompt: In a well-organized essay, analyze how the poet uses the aid of an extended metaphor and structure to reveal his conflicting views on love.
"A Lecture Upon the Shadow" may be interpreted as a poem that signals the inevitable decline of love. However, I disagree with this statement. As a leading metaphysical poet, John Donne metaphorically compares a love affair to the rising and the setting of the sun. His metaphor expresses that love grows, reaches it's peak, and then it quickly declines, as if it were the sun traveling through its daily course. Through John Donne's hopeful tone, expressed by his repeated use of the words except and if, it is clear that Donne does not believe love will die- but that the highest point in love can be maintained. This does, however, conflict with his metaphor in that he can never stop the sun and prolong noon.
Initially, Donne begins with the lines “stand still and I will read to thee,” (1). Here, I believe he is addressing his lover, telling her to stand still during the noon period where shadows do not follow them. This confirms his desire for their love to last. His poem then carries on to explain the build up, peak, and then fall of their relationship should they move from their current spot. The morning, noon and the evening shift of the sun parallel the rise and fall we see in a relationship based on love. In the first stanza, Donne exposes the progression of love from the root to its peak. During these first stages of love, he states that young lovers keep their feelings private, in an effort to be sure of their mutual love before displaying it for public scrutiny. Here is where the shadow is first introduced, "whilst our infant loves did grow, / Disguises did, and shadows, flow / from us". (10 - 11) The lovers worked diligently under the mask of the shadows that they them "selves produc'd" (5) in order to substantiate their love.
When the day strikes noon, Donne stops walking and...