John Donne's "Goe, and Catche a Falling Starre" as a Metaphysical Poem

Updated on November 21, 2017
DGtal Montage profile image

Poet, blogger, college professor, literature, and film enthusiast. Excited about critical and creative writing. Pursuing a Ph.D. in English.

Donne's Song: Central Theme

The poem “Goe, and catche a falling starre” is a song, peculiar to Donne, and different from typical Elizabethan lyrical poems. It is connected with women, but is not a poem on womanly love or love for women. In fact, the song is distinctly different from Donne’s usual Love poetry.

The song is actually on feminine inconstancy. Its theme is the lack of fidelity of women. The poet’s point of contention is that no woman, who is both true and fair, can be traced anywhere. This is well struck in the last two lines of the second stanza:

“No where

Lives a woman, true and faire.”

However, this is not all. The poet even claims that constancy in women is not only rare, but also short-lasting. Even if a woman be found fair and true, she will change and prove false in no time –

“Yet shee

Will bee

False, ere I come, to two or three.”

Song: Goe and Catche a Falling Starre

The original poem as penned by John Donne
The original poem as penned by John Donne | Source

Tone of the Poem: Key to Metaphysical Elements

This is, however, no characteristic attitude from Donne. His tone here is playful, rather witty, although it may smack of some sarcasm. In fact, the song represents the metaphysical way to mingle the serious with the light. The subject matter is, no doubt, grave – the inconstancy of women. No fair women can be fair in attachment and devotion. This forms, too, the very serious charge from Hamlet in Shakespeare's great play, after the same name.

“Frailty, thy name is woman.”

But Shakespeare's Hamlet has a serious tone, while Donne’s all light and witty. His wit flashes here and there, as he goes to emphasize feminine frailty. The concepts of getting a child from the root of a mandrake, the Devil’s cleft foot, the visualization of invisible materials are all witty enough.

Furthermore, the poet’s mention of a pilgrimage to see a fair and faithful woman has a slightly sarcastic touch. Even his conclusion that she will be false, ere the poet come, to two or three, has a satiric stroke. But in all these cases, the poet bears out a lively mood fun and mockery to make his song diverting, rather than coldly didactic.

All this marks the intellectualism of metaphysical poetry. The metaphysical style is more intellectual, less emotional, and that is well borne out in Donne’s song. Metaphysical intellectualism turns poetic impulsiveness into prosaic logicality. By means of arguments and analogies, no doubt framed wittily enough, he reaches his central assertion that fair and faithful women are real. Indeed, a chain of diverting points of logic sums up the central theme and arrives at the concluding observation in the typical metaphysical manner.

Precision and Wit: Characteristics of Metaphysical Conceits

The metaphysical poetic style exhibits precision. It does not indulge in elaboration but rather concentrates on conciseness. The rarity of a woman, faithful and fair, or her quickly changing fidelity is precisely but distinctly stated. Therein is found the innate quality of Donne’s song as a piece of metaphysical artistry.

Again, the metaphysical imagery, drawn quite precisely, from a wide field of mythology, Christianity and legends, is more prosaic and commonplace than emotional and elegant. Donne’s song has some rare but very precise images, such as ‘mandrake’s roote’, the Devil’s cleft foot, the mermaid’s music, and so on. The metaphorical analogy of ‘snow white haires’ is well conceived. Of course, such images are very few in number.

The seven impossible tasks (five of which are extremely hilarious jokes), mentioned in the first stanza, for instance, is a distant echo of the Herculean tasks in Classical mythology.

The song also represents the metaphysical mood that combines, as noted already, the serious and the light. It reveals definitely a sceptical and cynical frame of mind that taunts and debunks the nature of a fair woman. The poet mocks at the inconstancy and fickle-mindedness of such a woman. But his mood is lightened with a jesting, fun-making approach that both laughs and lashes. Although his poem is often considered sexist, but there is no reason to doubt his tone of levity and lightheartedness. One should keep reminding oneself that it is the same poet who wrote "The Goodmorrow" and "The Canonization", where he treated his beloved with sincere devotion and appreciation.

Verse Technique

The song is written in a regular stanza pattern. There are three stanzas, of nine lines each. The rhyme scheme is exactly of a melodious song, with the first four lines, rhyming alternately, while the fifth line and the sixth and the last three lines separately rhyme together.

The trochaic emphasis on the very first word "Goe" creates a sense of immediacy. It is a characteristic feature of Donne's poem that he right away goes on to establish a sort of intimate rapport with the readers. The tone instantly becomes conversational and personal. This was a pattern Donne maintained to deliberately break away from the distanced poetic voice technique of his predecessors.

John Donne (1572-“1631) was an English poet and cleric in the Church of England. He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.
John Donne (1572-“1631) was an English poet and cleric in the Church of England. He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. | Source

Go and Catch: The Modern English Version

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true, and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Vote Your Choice

Who is your favourite metaphysical poet?

See results

A crisp recitation of the poem by Richard Burton

Questions & Answers

  • What is the meaning of metaphysical poems?

    Metaphysical intellectualism turns poetic impulsiveness into prosaic logicality by means of arguments and analogies. The metaphysical style is more intellectual, less emotional.

  • What is a "metaphorical analogy?"

    A metaphor is a figure of speech where two things are implicitly compared. Analogy means this comparison. A parallelism sorts.

  • What's the meaning of valediction poems?

    Valediction literally means the act of bidding farewell. Poems with such a theme are usually called valediction poems.

© 2017 Monami


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      3 months ago

      The above information were helpful for me. Thank you..!

    • profile image 

      18 months ago

      Nice article:

      To read more about John Donne go to:

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      Go and catch the falling star summary


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)