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Pre 1914 Poetry Comparative Literary Tradition

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Both John Donne (1572 - 1631) and Andrew Marvell (1621 - 1678) use themes and images that are typically characteristic of the time in which their poems were written, in particular expressing the attitudes held towards women during this period. One of many themes used in these poems are the narrator's attempts to persuade the woman to sleep with him. Both Marvell and Donne use this, in their respective poems, 'To His Coy Mistress' and 'The Flea'. Both of these poems capture the frustration felt by the narrator, as for one reason or another he cannot get what he wants. In 'To His Coy Mistress', the frustration felt is due to the reluctance of the woman. He feels that the coyness felt by the woman would be immaterial, should they have infinite amounts of time, but he describes time as ' at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near; ' 1 This pre-occupation with time is characteristic of the metaphysical poets of the time, and many adopted a more carpe diem mentality as a result of this. The metaphor for time as a chariot at one's back is interesting as it gives the impression that time is always catching up with you, and you are never rid of it. This can be linked to Donne's 'The Sun Rising', in which the narrator's initial anger towards the sun is due to his reluctance to accept that it is already morning, and that time hasn't done what he has wanted it to do, Marvell uses hyperbole in the first stanza of 'To His Coy Mistress', saying that ' An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; ' 2 Marvell uses this example to exemplify the narrator's case; if he had infinite time, he would have no hesitation in spending one hundred years to admire her beauty, but, as it is, he has no control over their short lives and therefore would prefer the woman to become a little less reluctant. ...read more.


The narrator initially feels negatively towards the sun, saying that it is a 'busy old fool' 11. However, by the beginning of the third stanza, his opinion of the sun has softened and the narrator recognises that the sun is getting old, and if its duty is to shine on the world, it is carrying that out very well by shining on just the two of them, and that with the sun's growing age, it would be much easier for it to orbit just the two lovers: 'Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be To warm the world, that's done by warming us.' 12 Donne also uses the Ptolemaic model of the universe in this poem; the idea that the sun is attached to a crystalline sphere which orbits around the Earth, which was believed to have been the centre of the universe. This can be clearly seen in the last two lines of the poem, 'Since here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed they centre is, these walls thy sphere.' 13 Death is quite a common theme amongst these metaphysical love poems, which seems to be quite paradoxical, considering they are poems of love. In Andrew Marvell's 'The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers', the theme of death is particularly prominent. In this poem, Marvell imagines what a beautiful young girl's future will be like. He imagines that she will be very beautiful, but also cold and distant. Just like the woman in 'The Flea', she will also represent chastity, but not because she wants to remain pure, but rather that love is 'afraid' of her due to her coldness, 'Yet this is she whose chaster laws The wanton Love shall one day fear,' 14 Marvell then goes on to suggest how she becomes powerful and scornful, rejecting every man that comes her way, and Marvell uses the image of some sort of 'warrior queen', riding over the hearts of the men in her chariot, 'Ere ...read more.


26 Donne also uses an extended metaphor in this poem, using the flea to represent their union, and their 'marriage bed and marriage temple' 27 are used to represent the physical and spiritual sides of their marriage respectively. In another of Donne's poems, 'Song', religious imagery is also used, but for a different purpose to its use in 'The Flea'. The narrator uses the religious imagery here to present a cynical view of women, saying how rare and exciting it would be to find a faithful woman; 'If thou find'st one let me know, Such a pilgrimage were sweet,' 28 In Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress', there is one example of religious imagery, in which the 'marble vault' creates a sepulchral atmosphere. It is used to add strength to the narrator's argument against the woman - once she has died, they will no longer be able to be together; 'Thy beauty shall no more be found; Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound My echoing song;' 29 Appendix 1 Andrew Marvell, 'To His Coy Mistress', ll. 21-22. 2 ibid, ll. 13-14. 3 ibid, ll. 7-8 4 John Donne, 'The Flea', l. 2. 5 ibid, ll. 5-6. 6 ibid, ll. 7-9. 7 ibid, ll. 19-20. 8 ibid, ll. 25-27. 9 Andrew Marvell, 'The Fair Singer', ll. 11-12. 10John Donne, 'The Sun Rising', ll. 21-22. 11 ibid, l.1. 12 ibid, ll. 27-28. 13 ibid, ll. 29-30. 14 Andrew Marvell, 'The Picture of Little T.C', ll. 11-12 15 ibid, ll. 19-21. 16 ibid, ll. 34-40. 17 Andrew Marvell, 'The Fair Singer', l. 2 18 John Donne, 'Song', ll. 1-4. 19 John Donne, 'Elegy 19 To his Mistress Going to Bed', l. 31. 20 Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784. 21 Andrew Marvell, 'The Fair Singer', ll. 1- 2 22 ibid, ll. 8-9. 23 ibid, ll. 13-18. 24 Andrew Marvell, 'To His Coy Mistress', ll. 41-44. 25 John Donne, 'The Flea', ll. 17-18. 26 ibid, ll. 14-15. 27 ibid, l.13. 28 John Donne, 'Song', ll. 19-20. 29 Andrew Marvell, 'To His Coy Mistress', ll. 25-27. 2 ...read more.

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