Compare and Contrast the Ways in Which the Two Poets Explore the Theme of Love

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The two poets, John Donne and W. H. Auden each explore the theme of love in their poems “The Good-Morrow” and “Stop all the Clocks” from “Funeral Blues”. On the first glance, the poems seem to be extremely dissimilar: there is a great contrast between the – rather dramatic – openings “Stop all the clocks” and “I wonder by my troth, what thou and I”. On a closer reading, the theme of love is explored similarly and deeply – there seems to be a great empathy between Donne and Auden, even though their poems are different – one regarding the death of a lover, one on ever-lasting love.

Both of these poets were highly intelligent. Donne is described as one of the great “wits” of his time- his poetry was highly unconventional. They both lived in important times of change – Donne lived inside the “age of discovery”. His poems were highly controversial at the time, and this was due to the fact that he belonged to a certain elite, of which only a few belonged. A language was developed inside this small elite – which they believed proved their status above common, uneducated men and women who would not have been able to understand it.

Auden, however, is a much more modern poet and aware of a broader audience. His poem “Stop all the Clocks” is dated from only 1936. Therefore the language he uses is much more understandable to a 21st Century audience. The stanzas in Donne’s poem “The Good-morrow” are highly irregular; they follow no regular rhythm or rhyme. The ideas of the poem, to him, appear to be more important. However, Auden uses much more conventional and basic techniques within his poem. He uses regular rhyme – each stanza has two sets of rhyming couplets.

There is also a basic beat to the poem; each line has approximately 5 beats. Auden’s poem also has two quite clear sections – the first two stanzas appear to be an outcry to the public. He uses a strong imperative and highly emotional tone towards the general public to take notice of his grief, to care. The third and fourth stanzas seem to be a personal outcry. He writes of his lover and how he was everything to him. The first and second stanzas seem to explain this; they appear to explain why Auden felt like cutting off everything – noise, communication and time.

The sections in Donne’s poem are only within the stanzas; the first stanza talks of the past, the second celebrates the present and the third is about the love shared between himself and his lover. Some of the techniques which are used in the poems are similar. I have noticed that the word “let” is repeated at the start of a few lines in each poem – each in the second verse. The word “let” is used repetitively – in much the same way in each poem. I think that the use of the word is almost imperative; one poet is instructing the world around him to stop and take notice, while one poet is instructing the discoverers to discover more worlds.

Donne also uses the world “let” in a romantic way towards his lover – he wants their two worlds to become one. This is made clear in the line “Let us possesse one world, each hath one, and is one. ” Auden uses simple alliteration to add effect to the sound of the poem, whereas Donne does not, however, he uses reduplication – i. e. he repeats words to add effect to the sound of the poem. The imagery used in both of the poems is used to express the thoughts and feelings of the narrator.

Auden appears to use very simple images, whereas Donne wrote more complex, extended metaphors and conceits. An interesting example of this is the metaphor of sleep Donne uses in the opening stanza of “The Good-Morrow”. Donne uses a conversational tone and a highly unconventional use of the word “snorted” – this was extremely colloquial for the time it was written. Throughout Auden’s poem, the mood is very raw and simple; it is strongly worded and melancholic. It is clear to the reader that he has lost a lover – “He is Dead”.

The mood throughout Donne’s poem seems strong and intense. It is, rather dramatically, a poem celebrating the love that the narrator and the beautiful woman that Donne describes share. The endings to each of the poems are quite dissimilar – even though they seem to embrace the metaphor of the world. The metaphor of the world and travel that Donne uses is carried on in different sections throughout the last two stanzas. He uses direction (North, South, East and West), maps and explorers to express the feelings he has towards his lover.

He describes the North as “sharp” and the West as “declining” i. e. he wants to find a hemisphere where love is perfect – there are no “sharp” quarrels between lovers, and no “decline” of love. He is “clinging on” to the hope that, one day, his love will be immortal, never ceasing. In “The Good-Morrow”, Donne demonstrates the idea of macrocosm and microcosm- which represents “everything” inside a “little room”. It represents the fact that in this little room there is everything he will ever need – his lover.

Auden also embraces the world in much the same way, although he does not extend the metaphor as far as Donne. He describes his lover as his “North, South, East and West” – which means that his lover meant everything to him. In a different way to Donne, Auden comes to the conclusion that love is mortal – it has died in his heart as well as physically. The ending line: “For nothing now can come to any good” is extremely dramatic and just summarises the extreme emotions that the narrator was going through. It suggests that, after he has lost a love, he could never love again – there is no hope.

The poem is very much based not on Auden himself, but the public and sometimes things unrelated and in his surroundings. (In contrast to the small room of Donne’s poem). The poems I have studied seem rather dissimilar at first, but when deeply analysing the poems deeper similarities can be found, such as a similar metaphor. The feelings in both poems are strong and intense. However, I find that the contrasts outweigh the similarities – the poems are deeply dissimilar. First of all, Auden’s poem is about the loss of a love, whereas Donne’s poem celebrates the gaining of love.

Both of the poems have a great deal of imagery which portrays the poets’ feelings and to help the reader understand. However, the poets do this in entirely different ways. Auden uses simpler imagery and language than Donne which makes for easier reading – this helps a 21st Century audience to visualise his feelings more successfully. Donne’s language imagery however appears to be more vibrant and complicated – it is less easy for a modern audience to understand, rather it appears to be an overall more effective poem.

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