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Comparing and Contrasting 17th Century Love Poems

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Comparing and Contrasting 17th Century Love Poems Taken at face value these three poems appear to be similar, but a closer look at the tone, structure, themes and language shows that they are all, in fact, quite different. Having said this there are still a number of similarities that link all three pieces together. To begin with they are all roughly contemporaneous and this is reflected to some degree in the style of the poems. All three poems concern love or lust of some shape or form, whether it is utter devotion, as in To his Coy Mistress or an account of sexual passion, as in The Willing Mistress. One other similarity I have noticed is the way that all three pieces have a fairly rigid structure and use rhyming. Firstly I will discuss the descriptive methods which are used to create the atmosphere and feeling of the three poems. Two of these poems put metaphysical devices to good use, albeit in quite different ways , whereas the thire poem relies on more traditional descriptive powers. The metaphor used in The Flea is a concentrates on a single conceit, whereas To His Coy Mistress has many different metaphors. The Flea uses one of the strangest metaphors conceivable to portray sexual intercourse. "It sucks me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;" This bizarre conceit seems more logical considering the belief of the time that blood was exchanged in sexual intercourse. ...read more.


"My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires, and more slow" And "But at my back I always hear Time's wing�d chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity" The second passage above has a dark, doom like feel about it and it shows how the poem, skilfully, manages to change moods very quickly. It goes from dreamy praise of the Mistress's beauty to a warning that death is always on one's heels. The descriptive pace of the poem keeps the variety of imagery high, which means the reader stays interested. In addition to these metaphors the poem uses wonderfully indulgent descriptive language. This example of exaggerated praise typifies the passion expressed at the start of the poem: "I would Love you ten years before the Flood And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews." In this quote 'the Flood' is the biblical flood, which gives some impression of the strength of the feeling that the author has. These descriptive powers are also used to communicate more pessimistic points in the second half of the poem: "The grave's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace," This also demonstrates a nice use of black humour, conjuring an amusing, if slightly morbid, image of corpses embracing. One other point I feel is worth making about this starting section of the poem is the way that each piece of excessive praise comes one after the other, giving the impression of someone really pouring their feelings out. ...read more.


Lines such as theses show his true emotion, but since there is a lack of time the day must be seized. Donne , in comparison, seems to be hurriedly urging his mistress with short, sharp language and impatient reasoning. To His Coy Mistress seems to be the most philosophical poem. The whole poem revolves around the carpe diem idea. In the concluding stanza Marvell gathers this theme together in a final plea : "Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up tinto one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife Through the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run." The darker section in the middle of the poem conveys a feeling of impending doom and realisation of the truth, that time is running out. This leads to the final synthesis of the poem, which describes what action must be taken to 'seize the day'. The purpose and meaning of The Willing Mistress are altogether simpler, it being a straight forwards account of fact. This is one of the main reasons that it lacks the intensity that the other two poems possess. It is a conventionally romantic pastoral poem that does not set out to puzzle and challenge the readers' intellectual integrity in the way that The Flea does. Another significant difference between this poem and the other two is the fact that this one is written from a woman's point of view, instead of a persuasive man. These three love poems are all ...read more.

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