Poem cleverly used situation of separation to explore power of memories and differences between youth and maturity. Begins with persona looking for comfort after parting with a friend (assumed husband), commonly seeks reassurance through John Donne’s poetry that are “inked with aches from adolescence” showing collection is full of past memories. Title Valediction directly links to his poem about not having to worry about parting with his wife b/c love shared between them is so powerful.
H. then talks about her turbulent youth with comment about not needing drugs; “who needs drugs is she has enough uppers and downers in her head”. She refers to novelist Lou Salome and her loathing in giving up intellectualism for love and sex, portrayed through her inability to recall details of kissing a famous philosopher. H. then juxtaposes Salome to Saint Therese who spoke passionately about loving forever – she notes extreme difference between disinterest of apparent “mistress of Europe” and extreme romanticism of other in love with God, and ask for some of balance between them; “shall we meet half way between sanctity and liberation?” persona then finds she does not need to open collection as she is not upset, instead she understands that “this farewell’s left me joyful” in certainty that her lover will return to her: ‘my lover will come again to me”.
Here unlike beginning of poem, she projects power, the insight brings her serenity, symbolised by image of her moving into “peaceful sunset” feeding her geese, pastoral scene where she is dominant force. Her reference to “latter children” and sunset contrast her youth at poems opening, term “afterglow” is implicitly sexual and is clear this afterglow is different to that of her youth – poem clearly shows her maturity and change.
The audience reflect that while the poem is superficially about a farewell to a love, it is actually farewell to her youthful vulnerability and impassioned responded.