In "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning", John Donne describes a perfect and unchangeable love between two people. Throughout the poem he skillfully compares the love of the speaker and his lady to things that seem completely different to the love between them. Aside from metaphors and similes, Donne conveys double-meanings by using connotation and denotation.
To understand the meaning of the poem you must first know the denotive meanings of the vocabulary. In the title "valediction" is the act of bidding farewell. Mourning is grieving or lamenting a loss. In line 7 "profanation" means unreligiously or in poor taste. In line 8 laity refers to non-cleric people. In line 11 trepidation is a tremulous motion. In line 12 innocent means free of guilt. In line 13 sublunary refers to being below the moon. And in line 16 elemented is related to or being the basic or essential constituent of something.
Donne makes an analogy in the first stanza when he compares the approaching seperation of the lovers to death. The speaker compares his parting from his lover to the parting of the soul from a virtuous man at death. According to the speaker, "virtuous men pass mildly away" because the virtue in their lives has promised them glory and happiness in the afterlife. They die in peace without fear or emotion.
The speaker thinks that it would be a "profanation" to reveal the love he shares with his lady. It would be similar to priests revealing the mysteries and secrets of their faith to the "laity: or regular people. If they publicly display their grief upon their seperation, he feels it would taint the love he shares with his wife by being no better than the love of ordinary people. Donne pleads with his lady to accept his departure.