'A Valediction Forbidding Mourning' by Adrienne Rich

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My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under controlA red plant in a cemetary of plastic wreaths.A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.To do something very common, in my own way.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning: A Masterpiece of Metaphysical Poetry by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is a delicate yet powerful piece of poetry that explores the complexities of love, loss, and separation. Written in the tradition of metaphysical poetry, Rich's work employs elaborate metaphors and intricate imagery to convey its central themes.

The Poem

The poem begins with a speaker bidding farewell to her lover, acknowledging the pain and sadness of separation. However, instead of lamenting their parting, the speaker implores her lover to refrain from mourning their separation, arguing that their love is strong enough to withstand physical distance.

To illustrate her point, the speaker employs the metaphor of a compass, comparing their love to the instrument that always points towards its fixed center, no matter how far apart its legs may be. This metaphor cleverly captures the idea that while their physical bodies may be apart, their souls remain intertwined, always pointing towards each other.

The poem continues with the speaker using further metaphors to describe their love, comparing it to gold that can be stretched thin but never broken, and to a dying ember that can be blown back into a flame.

Finally, the poem ends with the speaker expressing her confidence that their love will endure, despite their physical separation. She assures her lover that they will reunite soon, and that their love will continue to thrive.


At its core, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is a meditation on the nature of love and its ability to transcend physical boundaries. The poem explores the idea that true love can survive even the most difficult of circumstances, and that it is not defined by physical proximity.

Another central theme of the poem is the idea of resilience. The speaker is confident in the strength of their love, and believes that it can withstand any challenge. This theme is reinforced by the various metaphors employed by the speaker, which suggest that even when stretched thin, their love will never break.

Finally, the poem also touches upon the theme of acceptance. The speaker acknowledges the pain of separation, but instead of mourning, she accepts it as a necessary part of their journey. This acceptance is seen in the final lines of the poem, where the speaker expresses her confidence that their love will endure, regardless of the physical distance between them.


One of the most striking features of "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is its use of intricate metaphors and imagery. The poem's metaphors are not only clever and original but are also used to convey complex ideas about love and separation.

The metaphor of the compass is one of the most effective in the poem. The image of the compass legs stretching across the globe, always pointing towards each other, is a powerful representation of the strength of their love. The metaphor not only captures the idea that their love can withstand physical distance but also suggests that their love is fixed and unchanging.

Similarly, the metaphor of gold being stretched thin but never broken is a clever way of describing the resilience of their love. The image of gold being stretched thin is not only visually striking but also suggests that their love can be tested without being destroyed.

Finally, the metaphor of the dying ember being blown back into a flame is a beautiful representation of the power of love to reignite even after it has seemingly died out. This metaphor reinforces the idea that separation is not an obstacle to their love, but rather a test that they can overcome.


In "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning", Adrienne Rich has created a masterpiece of metaphysical poetry that explores the complexities of love, separation, and resilience. The poem's intricate metaphors and imagery are used to convey complex ideas about love and its ability to transcend physical boundaries.

The poem is a testament to the enduring power of love and the human capacity to find hope and strength in the face of adversity. It is a work of art that inspires us to believe in the transformative power of love and the resilience of the human spirit.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Adrienne Rich's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is a classic poem that explores the complexities of love and separation. The poem is a beautiful and poignant expression of the deep connection between two people and the pain of being separated from them. Rich's use of language and imagery creates a powerful emotional impact that resonates with readers long after they have finished reading the poem.

The poem is structured as a series of stanzas, each containing four lines. The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with the speaker addressing her lover and telling him that they must part. She asks him not to mourn their separation, but instead to remember the love they shared and the bond that will always exist between them.

The second stanza continues this theme, with the speaker using the metaphor of a compass to describe their relationship. She compares their love to a compass that always points true, no matter where they are in the world. This metaphor emphasizes the strength and constancy of their love, even in the face of physical separation.

In the third stanza, the speaker uses the metaphor of gold to describe their love. She compares it to a precious metal that is refined and purified through fire. This metaphor suggests that their love has been tested and strengthened through difficult times, and that it will endure even in the face of separation.

The fourth stanza is perhaps the most powerful in the poem, as the speaker describes the physical and emotional pain of separation. She compares it to the pain of a dying star, which explodes and scatters its light across the universe. This metaphor emphasizes the intensity of the speaker's emotions and the profound impact that their separation will have on her.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close, with the speaker once again urging her lover not to mourn their separation. She tells him that their love will endure, even if they are physically apart. She concludes by saying that their love is like a "breath, a flame in the heart," suggesting that it is a vital and essential part of their being.

One of the most striking aspects of "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is Rich's use of language and imagery. She employs a range of metaphors and similes to convey the depth and complexity of the speaker's emotions. The use of the compass metaphor, for example, emphasizes the constancy and reliability of their love, while the gold metaphor suggests that it has been tested and refined through difficult times.

The use of the dying star metaphor in the fourth stanza is particularly powerful, as it conveys the intense pain and emotional upheaval that the speaker is experiencing. The image of a star exploding and scattering its light across the universe is a vivid and evocative one, and it captures the sense of loss and disorientation that the speaker is feeling.

Another notable aspect of the poem is the way in which Rich explores the theme of separation. The poem is a valediction, or farewell, and it is clear that the speaker and her lover are about to part ways. However, rather than focusing on the sadness and pain of separation, Rich emphasizes the enduring nature of their love. The poem is not a lament for what has been lost, but a celebration of what will always remain.

This emphasis on the enduring nature of love is perhaps the most important theme of the poem. Rich suggests that love is not something that can be lost or forgotten, but rather something that is an essential part of our being. The final line of the poem, with its reference to love as a "breath, a flame in the heart," emphasizes the vital and life-giving nature of love.

In conclusion, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" is a beautiful and powerful poem that explores the complexities of love and separation. Rich's use of language and imagery creates a vivid and emotional portrait of the speaker's feelings, and her emphasis on the enduring nature of love is both moving and inspiring. This is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul, and it is sure to resonate with readers for generations to come.

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