• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What are the main characteristics of the metaphysical poets? (With reference to ‘The Flea’, ‘The Apparition’ and ‘To His Coy Mistress’)

Extracts from this document...


What are the main characteristics of the metaphysical poets? (With reference to 'The Flea', 'The Apparition' and 'To His Coy Mistress') A characteristic is an indicative, distinguishing quality, attribute or trait applied to something to make it similar to something else. The two metaphysical poets that we will consider are John Donne and Andrew Marvell. Although these two poets were both born in the 17th Century both had completely different upbringings and experiences throughout their lives. Andrew Marvell was born in Yorkshire, on March 31st 1621 to the Rev. Andrew Marvell, and his wife Anne. When Marvell was three years of age, the family moved to Hull, where Rev. Marvell became lecturer in Holy Trinity Church. He was educated at the Hull Grammar School, and in 1633 he matriculated as a Sizar of Trinity College, Cambridge. Two poems by Marvell, one in Greek, one in Latin, were printed in the "Musa Cantabrigiensis" in 1637. In 1638 Marvell was admitted a Scholar of Trinity College, and took his B.A. degree in the same year. A few days after receiving his scholarship, Marvell's mother died. He remained a few more years in residence, leaving Cambridge only after his father's death, by drowning. In 1650, Marvell became the tutor of twelve-year-old Mary Fairfax (later Duchess of Buckingham), daughter of Sir Thomas Fairfax, retired Lord General of the parliamentary forces. At the Yorkshire seat of the Fairfax family, Nun Appleton House, Marvell seems to have written, over a period of about three years, most of his non-satiric English poems. Marvell, who had been a supporter of the king, Charles III, under the commonwealth, became a supporter of Cromwell. In the summer of 1657, Marvell tutored Cromwell's nephew and ward, William Dutton, living at Eton. Starting in 1659, Marvell was elected M.P. for his hometown of hull, and he continued to represent it until his death during his last twenty years of life, Marvell was engaged in political activities, taking part in embassies to Holland and Russia and writing political pamphlets and satires. ...read more.


can be, his reason being that if mingling in the flea is so harmless, sexual mingling would be equally harmless for they are the same thing really. Donne's 'The Apparition' is mainly a discussion; it is a poem about the speaker's thoughts. The speaker has been scorned by love and somebody rejected by love seeks revenge, as in this case. The stanzas take you through the thought pattern of the speaker and the way that he see's his ghost appearing at the foot of the bed of his ex-mistress and her new love. He feels he has been 'kill'd' by the rejection of his mistress who seeks a new love. As we enter the mind of his thoughts we find out about his pleasures in seeking revenge by terrifying the woman, 'bath'd in a cold quicksilver sweat' he wants to make her sorry for the pain she has caused and that is the only way he can see how 'thou shouldst painfully repent.' In each of the poems were find another common feature, you get a sense of a speaking voice. Whether it is part of a discussion, a trail of thoughts or a persuasive argument. Donne also establishes a pattern, which the others emulate in his use of the stanza. Donne loves variety as a natural embellishment and it is a 'true ornament of verse'. We can see this by comparing the poems. The three-stanza argument in 'The Flea' is used again in other poems of Donne. But the fluency of the stanza in 'The Flea' leading to the triplet at the end, where he begins to agree with his mistress, is more stately, is measured quality, but this gives way in 'The Apparition' to a far more lively and varied stanza. The line length is giving the idea of someone thinking; giving the poem immediacy and that his thoughts are spontaneous. The use of the pronouns 'thou' 'thee' gives the poem a sense of a speaker and the two stanzas tell the ...read more.


The woman wants to kill the flea, but the speaker argues that it would be sinful to kill this flea because this would mean killing him, the flea and herself at the same time, 'three sins in killing three'. The whole poem, 'The Flea' is a metaphysical conceit, it sets up an analogy between one body's spiritual qualities or actions, them having sexual intercourse, and an object from the living world, the flea. In this case the conceit was used to persuade but are often also used in the Renaissance period to prove or define a point. In 'The Apparition' imagery is scattered all over, after all it is the speaker's imaginative ideas running wild. So of the most powerful though I feel are not necessarily the more complex one, 'when by thy scorn, O murd'ress, I am dead' which means that the rejection of the mistress has emotionally scarred him so much he feels he cannot go on, that he is dead. The saying 'There is no one more bitter than one scorned by love' seems to appear into mind. The metaphor 'cold quicksilver sweat' is very clever and effective, quicksilver is mercury and it goes into little blobs of balls like the sweat on the woman's face. The silvery colour of the mercury is the reflection of the candlelight shimmering on them. With Marvell, imagery is more problematic. Unlike Donne who scatters metaphors freely, Marvell is more selective and sparing. Very often the image is more memorable and striking than the idea it expresses, as with the 'deserts of vast eternity', while frequently one finds an idea that cannot be understood except as the image in which Marvell expresses it. In any case, with all of these poets, the use of metaphor serves, and is secondary to the total argument. However saying that, in 'To His Coy Mistress' the rare few images of 'vegetable love should grow' is a very erotic phrase, showing the slow development of love and also relating to the male genitals. It is a sexual implication, maybe to try to arouse the mistress. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Andrew Marvell section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Andrew Marvell essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    With close reference to the two poems which you have studied, show how the ...

    4 star(s)

    There is no way of avoiding the passage of time. "But at my back I always hear, Time's winged chariot hurrying near;" This image emphasises the speed and movement of time; the chariot of time, which is a swift moving vehicle, has wings to make it move even faster.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Which of 'The Sun Rising' by John Donne and 'To His Coy Mistress' by ...

    Lastly he contradicts himself by saying the sun should shine at them because they are everything. This style has done completely the opposite Marvell managed to do with 'To His Coy Mistress' it has succeeded however in making it terribly confusing with almost a different thought in each separate stanza and conflicting desires at the beginning and the end.

  1. Compare and Contrast 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell with 'To His Mistress ...

    Marvell's poem is strong and forceful which is a direct reflection of the person that he was. Marvell was accused of intense racial intolerance. I think that his inability to accept that his lover might reject him is just another example of his intolerant personality.

  2. The Metaphysical Poets: John Donne and Andrew Marvell.

    is that Marvell is saying she will die before losing her maiden-like status in this world. 'Thy marble vault' is her sarcophagus or her tomb; his 'echoing song' is the compliments he has paid to her all her life; and the 'worms trying that long preserv'd virginity' are the worms

  1. Comparison of three love poems "She Dwelt Among her untrodden ways," by William Wordsworth, ...

    He compares her to the Indian Ganges, which suggests that she is exotic and mysterious, and then he describes himself as the Humber, which gives the idea that he is much lower than her and she is too good for him.

  2. Two of the poems in 'Best Words' are 'seduction poems', rather than love poems ...

    William Shakespeare wrote a 14-line sonnet love poem. So it shows that there are different kinds of love poems. These argument poems 'To his coy mistress' and 'The flea' have the same form but are meaning different things. Marvell's 'To his coy mistress' is all about the poet trying to seduce his mistress otherwise she'll die a virgin.

  1. Compare 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell with 'Sonnet 138' by William Shakespeare. ...

    The last two lines in the poem are cleverly written and have a completely different rhythm to all other lines in the poem. It rushes through the first line then stops suddenly, then rushes again. 'Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run'.

  2. Compare and Contrast 'To his Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell with 'To his Mistress ...

    This line is quite extraordinary for the first reason that the language used, is very archaic and creates an atmosphere it carries more than one meaning out to the reader (example of this could be that he would cover her body with his love all over her, instead of jewellery),

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work