In Featured Article, Shop Blog

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

Peter Ross Compasses, photo by Christopher Schwarz

Peter Ross Compasses, photo by Christopher Schwarz

No, this is not an April Fools’ joke posted a day early. It’s a poem from one of my favorite writers, John Donne, who died on this date in 1631.

Why this poem (or any poem)? The central conceit is the compass – a powerful tool in woodworking.

After the poem (yes, yes; I know many will skip it), I’ve posted links to just some of the compass techniques and other related things we’ve published and filmed; most of them are free (but if you have any interest in blacksmithing, I can’t recommend Peter Ross’s video highly enough).

By the way: The tool that is  more commonly known as “dividers” these days? Same thing.

“A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“The breath goes now,” and some say, “No,”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do;

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Restoring a Compass: Part 1: Blog entry
Restoring a Compass: Part 2: Blog entry
Restoring a Compass: Part 3: Blog entry
Use Dividers for Quick & Easy Dovetail Layout: Video (I recommend the 2nd one, the “director’s cut)
Why I Lay Out Dovetails with Dividers: Blog entry
Spacing Dovetails with Dividers – A Little History: Blog entry
For Dividers I Fall: Blog Entry
Built to Scale: Blog entry
Learn to Lay Out an Ogee: Blog entry
Compass Layout Tricks
: Video
Dividing a Cicle into Three Without a Compass or Protractor: Video
No-number Geometric Layouts: Blog entry
Forging a Compass” – A DVD by Blacksmith Peter Ross
Design Matters: Essential Dividers: Article, Feb. 2011, Issue #188

— Megan Fitzpatrick

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recent Posts
Showing 7 comments
  • TikhonC

    Thank you, Megan. John Donne has long been an inspiration for me.

    Like the April fools joke too!

  • Dave in Ohio

    Congrats on getting “sublunary” worked in to the interwebs. Now to add it to your daily vocabulary about the office. Special mention to the use of “conceit” in its secondary, yet wholly appropriate, definition.

    Minor points deducted for utilizing less verbiage than that quoted.


  • mcsteff

    All this on a Frosty morn!

  • Derrick


    The last two links do not appear to be working for me. They take me to a link/article not found message. I understand that at least one is a for a fee item (the Peter Ross “Forge a Compass” video) but I would expect in that case for it to take me somewhere I could order the item in question.

    All the others appear to take me to the article just fine.


  • jimbrowninpa

    Used to teach this poem in Survey of British Lit … thanks for the reminder and the woodworking tie-in.

  • DanWyant

    Van Morrison had something to say about John Donne

  • msiemsen

    John Donne, who died on this date in 1631.
    Just another clod washed away from the continent?

    “Like gold to airy thinness beat.” Always someone bringing gilt into a relationship?

    I am sure I am about be be tossed from the classroom! I pause to wonder if you are feeling love in the springtime air?

    We dance round in a ring and suppose,
    But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Start typing and press Enter to search