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Many of the writers in this anthology use poetry to examine the idea of the brevity of human life, but they treat this idea in very different ways.(TM)

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Introduction

'Many of the writers in this anthology use poetry to examine the idea of the brevity of human life, but they treat this idea in very different ways.' The brevity of life is a theme often explored, not only through poetry, but in day to day life. For many years people have been engaging with the idea that life is simply too short to waste, that "each man's life is but a breath" and in fact pales in comparison to the wonder of nature. A fine example of a poem which considers the succinctness of life is Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress. This poem straight away engages with the theme; time, and examines the brevity of human life with an argument to 'seize the day'. The poem is written to his lover in an attempt to show her that life is too short to waste and to convince her to give up her 'long preserved virginity'. The poem is divided into three verses: in the first verse, the poet uses hyperbole to enact the proposition that literary lovers should waste time conversing and in admiring each other in exotic surroundings; 'Thou by the Indian Ganges' side shouldst rubies ...read more.

Middle

This stanza introduces the first real example of passion; 'And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires', with his speech becoming much more positive and the 'threats' of the second stanza seem to disappear, further adding to this urgent, almost frenzied, attitude; desperately trying to convince his lover that if they unite they can 'break through' the gates of time; devouring time rather than let it devour them. The poem is written in rhyming couplets throughout, which is a key feature of the poem as it further emphasises Marvell's urgency throughout the poem; trying to convince the woman he loves that, although they cannot make the sun 'stand still', they can indeed still 'make him run'. Despite Marvell's obvious disdain for the inevitable fact that time will eventually overcome them, he turns this around and instead uses the concept of time to praise and flatter her; 'A hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze, Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart.' ...read more.

Conclusion

The sonnet finishes with the rhyming couplet, desperately trying to convince him to make the most of his youth, and 'love that well which thou must leave ere long'. The Twa Corbies is a ballad concerning two crows which are about to eat a knight who has just been killed. The recurring theme throughout this poem is that, in life, social status means everything, in death, it means absolutely nothing, leaving you as nothing but food for crows. This idea presents the debate over the brevity of life, exploring the notion that, in comparison with nature, human life is insignificant, merely a brief sneeze of time. The crows are given direct speech from the outset, further reinforcing the image of nature overruling human existence, combined with the unchanging rhyme and rhythm. The insignificance of humans is emphasized by the corbies display of contempt when discussing 'him', but when referring to him as a meal, they hold him in high regard. Each poem shares the same message; life is far too short to waste worrying about trivial things, and instead should embrace life, take each day as it comes and cherish your youth, before it is taken from you. ...read more.

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