Elements of Plato in John Donne's The Good Morrow Essay

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Elements of Plato in John Donne's The Good Morrow

There are clear Platonic elements in Donne's "The Good Morrow." The idea that Donne and his lady are halves that complete each other is traceable to Plato's theory of love. Lines 7 and 8 of the poem refer to the Platonic World of Ideas: the lady is presented as the Idea of Beauty, of which all earthly beauty is but an imperfect reflection. My argument, however, is that Plato's cave allegory and his World of Ideas are integral to a full understanding of this highly complex poem.

The first reference to the Platonic cave comes in line 4 of the poem: "Or snorted we in the seven sleepers' den?" The seven sleepers are seven young Christians who were walled up in a cave in the year 249.
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This is a long and difficult process, however, and those who succeed in it act as if they have awakened from a dream and finally discovered the true destiny of their soul. Overwhelmed with joy, they do not wish to return to the cave, but Plato insists that they must, to educate and free their fellow human beings who are still inside. In the first stanza of "The Good Morrow," Donne and his lady are in darkness, but in the second, they have emerged into the sunlight, awakened from the dream that they previously considered to be reality, and discovered perfection. The perfection they have found, however, is not God but each other, and they feel no responsibility toward those human beings who are still in darkness. As in Plato, it is perfection rather than size that is of the highest importance, and the little room the lovers dwell in becomes more significant than all the vast new worlds discovered by seventeenth-century voyagers and students of the heavens.

Plato's freed cave-dwellers discover God, but Donne and his lady find each other. "The Good Morrow" is thus a very clever reworking of Plato's cave allegory, for Donne and his lady establish a perfect love relationship and become themselves part of the World of Ideas. Together, they constitute a complete and perfect world. The third and last stanza ends as follows:

Whatever dies was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be

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