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Discuss the way in which death is presented in metaphysical poetry

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Discuss the way in which death is presented in metaphysical poetry Death is presented in metaphysical poetry in a number of different ways. However, from the glorified object of desire in Henry Vaughan's 'They are all gone into the world of light' to the way in which John Donne mocks the personified death in 'Death be not proud', there are also a lot of common points which are made. The historical context of the pieces is clearly an influential factor. With all the changes happening during the 16th and 17th centuries (the time in which most metaphysical poetry was being written) the only thing one could be certain of in life was death. Subsequently this was a subject on which many metaphysical poets wrote. John Donne's sonnet 'Death be not proud' is very forceful and written with a triumphant and (at times) mocking tone. Throughout the poem he reinforces his view that death is not something to fear. It is, however, the gateway to eternal life, a belief which reflects that of Plato. Donne takes the common view that death is a terrible thing, and negates it, undermining the personified 'Death's' power over people: 'some have called thee / Mighty and dreadfull ... thou art not soe'. He then proceeds to give more reason to not fear death, as 'From rest and sleepe' we receive 'Much pleasure', and considering sleep is a mere imitation of death what great joy could we obtain from death itself? ...read more.


The point of the poem, celebrating a year anniversary, is contradicted in the next stanza with the idea that their love is timeless: 'Only our love hath no decay; This no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday'. But Donne seems sure that their love is everlasting: 'Running it never runs away from us away, But truly keepes his first, last, everlasting day.' It is in the third stanza that a new perspective is added to this piece. The line 'Two graves must hide thine and my coarse' throws up all manner of questions. It is evident the lovers are not married. If they were they would be able to be buried in the same grave. This leads the reader to the next question: if they are so deeply in love why are they not married yet? Is it because they are already married to others? Suddenly their love does not seem so idyllic. Donne explains how, after death, their love will be all that is left of them and their souls will be together, 'a love increased there above, / When bodies to their graves, soules from their graves / remove.'. He almost threatens his lover in the lines 'Who is safe as wee? where none can doe / Treason to us, except one of us two,' implying that if one was to do something to hurt the other it would result in death. ...read more.


During the synthesis Marvell drives home his point that time is running out by using a faster rhythm. In the previous sections the couplets were self contained, which kept the pace fairly slow. However in the last section there are only three sentences this helps to increase the pace. He also uses words such as 'devour', and 'instant', words which are associated rapid movements. However the language used to describe the sexual act appears controversial. He likens their love making to 'am'rous birds of prey' and a connnball: 'Let us roll all our Strength, and all Our sweetness, up into one Ball: And tear our Pleasures with rough strife Throughout the Iron gates of Life.' These images are disturbing, and not what you would expect considering he is trying to persuade his mistress into bed. The closing two lines of the poem summarise the argument: 'Thus, though we cannot make our Sun Stand still, yet we will make him run.' Although they cannot control the inevitable advancement of time, they can (and should) make the most of their time together. There are many views on the after life, and its questionable existence. Whether you- like Vaughan- believe that death is the beginning of a wonderful existence, or if you prefer to see death as a tool for revenge (like Donne in 'The Apparition') we are all agreed on one aspect. We all die. However, the mystery still remains, and the fact is no one knows for certain what will happen to when we leave this world. ...read more.

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