Which of 'The Sun Rising' by John Donne and 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell do you believe to be the most successful poem?

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Emma Smith 10B

Which of ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell do you believe to be the most successful poem?

John Donne and Andrew Marvell were two of the most outstanding of the English Metaphysical poets of their era. In both of the poems to which this piece of extended writing refers, highly intellectual and complex imagery is used to make us discover the hidden meanings behind their unconventional love poetry. Both poems were written at a similar period, and though both authors were similar in ways, there are also points of diversity.

John Donne was a renowned clergyman, loved and respected greatly for his ingenious fusion of wit and humour he injected into both his sermons and his poetry. Donne’s work was widely published during his life and though shunned by his family for renouncing the Roman Catholic tradition, attending both Oxford and Cambridge and receiving no degrees and a shocking secret marriage to Anne More, Donne managed to make a healthy living and laugh at his mishaps. The poet, in characteristic pun later summed up the latter experience as, ‘John Donne, Anne Donne, undone.’

By way of contrast, Andrew Marvell was the son of a working vicar. He attended college but after the death of his father, he decided to travel from country to country in an unsettled manner. Not much is known about Marvell as prior to his death, very few of his works had been published. From what is recorded though, we believe that during these 5 years in which he spent travelling between Holland, Italy, France and Spain, he wrote all of his poetry that has now become well known. After his travels he applied for a job as assistant secretary to the council of state and after 4 years was finally given the position thus concluding his short lived, unrecognised, literary career.

I believe that the most successful poem of, ‘The Sun Rising and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is the latter. Both of the poems are written aiming to flatter their lover but for different reasons. In this essay I hope to give you an insight as to why I believe this claim to be true.

‘To His Coy Mistress’ was written with the aim of praising the woman addressed in this poem as, ‘Lady,’ and then gently persuading her through flattery to go to bed with him. This intense mixture of love and lust draws us in. Marvell is frequently described as a Metaphysical poet and while this is unquestionably true, he also takes elements from other types of poetry such as cavalier. In ‘A critical history of English Literature,’ David Daiches says, ‘His best poetry combines true metaphysical wit with perfect classical grace and poise to a greater degree than any other poet of the century…[He] stood alone, creating his own synthesis out of the clashing elements around him.’ This describes the mood and perfection taken with his work in all circumstances. The poem is written with intent and this shows in the structure of the poem. The rhyming couplet form carries on throughout the poem giving it a flowing feeling. It seems to persuade us to read on although the subject is quite complex and challenging to comprehend.

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‘The Sun Rising,’ is written to the sun trying to persuade him to stop coming through the curtains each morning and forcing John Donne and his partner to arise from their sleep and carry on with normal life. Donne personifies the sun and deeply flatters his lover by suggesting the world revolves around her. The overall intent of the poem therefore seems to be a little muddled; is Donne aiming ‘The Sun Rising’ at his lover, or at the sun? Also the structure of the poem is very unorthodox. Unlike the rigid rhyming couplets of ‘To Hi Coy Mistress’, ...

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

There are some good attempts at analysis of the two poems here and overall, a good general understanding. There is also an attempt at consistent comparison. The essay could be improved with a more structured answer, enabled by clear planning. Some key poetic techniques are not analysed, and there are not enough direct references to the poems (use of quotes). Some point made are inaccurate. Contextual references need to be integrated into the analysis of the essay and only used if they contribute to the analysis. It is also best to try and omit subjective comments and avoid descriptive re-telling of the poems. **