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Word Count: 1,617
William Empson begins his critical essay on John Donnes A Valediction of Weeping with this statement Empson here plays the provocateur for the critic who wishes to disagree with the notion that Donnes intentions were perhaps less base than the sincere valediction of a weeping man Indeed A Valediction concerns a parting Donne is going to sea and is leaving his nameless loved other in England and the Valediction is his emotive poesy describing the moment There is little argument as to what Donne is feeling at surface level he is sorrowful and grieving because he must be apart from his loved one who has become his world a metaphor which is carried out in the second stanza Empson is indeed correct when he says that the poem is not unambiguous There is a large range of interpretations that can be made based upon the language in the poem and these are focused around the source of Donnes grief It is easy for one to picture a grieving sailor leaving his lover but what makes this man grieve It is the innate love between two people who are intensely focused upon each other which must be put on hold Is it some additive emotion that consists of two people who are about to suffer separation and loss of a lover Or is it as Empson proposes the subliminal desire within man to possess a woman both physically and emotionally ie fear that she will be unfaithful and he will lose something more than a lover In this scenario Empsons Donne weeps not for his lover but for the loss of manhood that comes about from being cheated on It is rational reductionism then to say that Donne weeps for his inability to possess the woman while still feeling possessed by her so then he is almost put into a servile and effeminate position himself Crying which is also
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