The four seventeenth century “love poems” I will be comparing are “To His Coy Mistress”, “Shall I Compare Thee…?” and “My Mistress’ Eyes”, along with “The Flea”. All the four poems are based on the subject of “love”. Each poem touches on a different aspect of love although they all have a lot in common. Two of the poems were written by William Shakespeare: “Shall I Compare Thee…? ” along with “My Mistress’ Eyes”. They are also both sonnets. “To His Coy Mistress” is written by Andrew Marvell, and “The Flea” by John Donne. Andrew Marvell’s and John Donne’s poems are made up of three stanzas, each airing a different argument. I will analyse the four poems also their purpose, the nature of their representation of love, the form of the poem and the techniques used by the poets.
I will also include my opinion on which poem I enjoyed the most, together with some comments on modern day attitudes. The first poem I will be looking at is “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell. The poem is made up of three strands of argument: flattery, fear, and passion. Everything in the poem is trying to persuade the woman to sleep with the man; he only has sex on his mind. We read the poem through the eyes of the poet and by doing this Marvell gives us a look into his mind and what he is thinking. This technique brings the reader into the poem.
This verse depends on the ‘if’ and ‘had we but all the time in the world’. They do not have all the time in the world but if they did everything would be different. In the first stanza the guy starts to make his move. He compliments his coy mistress “Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side shouldst rubies find” and tells sweet lines “Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze” about how they could spend eternity together. In line eleven “My vegetable love will grow vaster than empires and more slow”, the man is telling the woman that his love will grow and grow more every time he sets eyes on her.
However, it could have a more sexual meaning; he could be talking about an erection and how as his love grows so does his penis. In this way you can see his mind thinking about sex as he does when he talks about each part of her body “the rest”. His attitude is very nonchalant about the whole idea. He is trying to be smooth, for example if they had all the time in the world. He is using a combination of reassurance that he would not pressunise her, compliments and flattery and the idea of love (which gets mentioned four times in this verse) to soften her up for the ‘hard sell’ and verse two. hough his patience is getting less by the next stanza. In the second stanza we begin to see his personality change.
This stanza is a little faster reading and the poet is not putting as much thought into what he is saying. He is not making an effort to complement her and doe not think of ho what he is saying will look. He goes from being the person you could spend eternity with to a person whose time is ending fast. He tells her they can not have eternity together; instead her beauty will not last forever. “But at my back I always here time’s winged chariot hurrying near.
Line twenty four speaks of “deserts of vast eternity. ” Where “Thy beauty shall no more be found” once she is dead. The woman would be receiving mixed feelings about what the poet desires he is trying to get her to sleep with him while she still can. His desperation shows when he murmurs line twenty seven “then worms shall try that long preserved virginity”. He is insinuating she will die before losing her virginity. He then follows this up by saying his ‘lust’ will go to the grave with her. “The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace” she will lose him and what he feels for her.
In the final stanza the guy has lost all hope and patience, this makes him sound completely desperate. He basically tells her it is now or never. This is where he has been leading from the start. He starts by being compassionate and ends by being desperate. We do not find out what happens but she appears to be giving in. the poet strongly presents the logical conclusion that she should sleep with him. “therefore” and “thus”. “To His Coy Mistress” is a metaphysical poem which means its lyrics contain strong images. The poem is fairly intense.
The second poem I will be looking at is “My Mistress’ Eyes” by William Shakespeare. The poem is a short sonnet. Unlike “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” this poem is telling how much the poet loves his mistress and is not about trying to pick up a girl. Although the speaker seems to demean his loved one he is actually saying no one is perfect and no one has all of those things. He does not love his wife because of her differences he loves her for them.
The speaker’s attitude towards his mistress in the beginning seems negative. He seems to be insulting her. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”. He continues to insult her up until line twelve. Everything he speaks about her he then demeans by comparing to nature and making her look bad. “If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head”. In line nine the speaker says “I love to hear her speak” yet in the line ten he carries on “that music hath a far more pleasing sound”. It’s the first time his tone changes and he begins to pay his wife a compliment. But because of his quickness to say music is a far more pleasing sound the compliment is abandoned. She is no “goddess” either.
In the last two lines however the speaker states that his love for her is rare. “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare”. “as any she belied with false compare”, Showing that he is criticising the way that other men dishonestly flatter their lovers by using clichi?? d and untrue comparisons: no woman is a goddess. The way in which the sonnet is written gives the impression that his wife is very plain, and average. It shows his love for an imperfect woman. All the beauty a woman could have will fade with time he shows the beauty that he fell in love with, the beauty within, her personality.
A sonnet is usually made up of two parts. A first part made up of eight lines and a second part of six lines. It is in line nine that the sonnet changes in this case and so it follows this pattern. Shakespeare is proving his honesty and sincerity in this poem. He certainly has strong feelings for this woman. The third poem is “The Flea” written by John Donne. This poem is persuasive in which the speaker is attempting to establish a sexual union. He is trying to get the woman into bed using a flea symbolically. John Donne uses a rhyme scheme to add effect; although so do the other poets.
In the first stanza Donne uses the flea as a conceit, to represent the sexual union between him and the woman. The poem starts with the flea biting both the speaker and the woman. Donne’s response to the incident is “and in this flea our bloods mingled be”, suggesting to the woman that they are united in the body of the flea. The speaker is basically talking about how the flea represents them coming together. When he says “mark in this” it draws the readers and the woman’s minds to inside the flea rather than what is going on in the outside world. Donne is light hearted and not serious whereas Marvell is pushy.
In the second stanza Donne introduces two principal metaphors. In the first one “three lives in one flea spare”, the speaker is implying their lives are contained within the flea, though he later says “the flea is you and I”. He is making the flea appear unimportant which would logically make the speaker and woman unimportant, but he is just trying to decrease the value that the woman has placed upon her virginity, having sex with me is as meaningless as the death of the flea. “Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me, will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee”.
The second metaphor would be “marriage bed and marriage temple” line thirteen. The flea is a place where the speaker and woman can have a marital relationship. In fact they are “more than married” line eleven. He is trying to get this woman to have the same relationship on the outside of the flea as well as the inside. In this stanza he changes from sexual language to religious language. This is because the woman is threatening to squash the flea. It is also the fact that his sexual language is not working so he wants to show that he is genuine.
In the final part of the second stanza the speaker refers to killing the flea as murder. “three sins in killing thee” line eighteen. He and the woman would be killed inside the flea if she follows her natural instinct to squash the flea. The woman does not strike me as nai?? ve like the coy mistress. She is not susceptible to Donne’s pressure. She is independent-minded, more his equal. In the third stanza the woman kills the flea. When he says “purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence? ” in line twenty, he is asking why she has shown no regard for the innocence of the flea and why is she so protective of her virginity.
We do not know that she is still a virgin but the poet takes it as she is so I would assume the same, although the flea bites them both which means that they have to be close together. Could they already be in bed? She thinks she has won the argument but the speaker then turns the actions of the woman against her. She has said “thy self nor me the weaker now” but, he responds by implying that there is no change in their status so there would be no change in their status if they took the relationship to an intimate level. No one needs to know. John Donne’s use of rhythm helps in shaping the poems meaning.
Donne varies the rhythm to create emphasis on particular words or phrases. For example in the first stanza the word “mark” is stressed, rather than using an unstressed word. This is important to emphasis his argument. You can also notice the aabbccdd rhyme scheme. This consistency reflects the speaker’s persistence in his request for intimacy throughout the poem. The speaker appears to take what he is saying very seriously, though it is only a game to him and he has a teasing pretence. The final poem I looked at was “Shall I Compare thee..? ” sonnet by William Shakespeare.
In the first line the speaker introduces the comparison of his loved one to a summer’s day; he then builds on this by writing “thou art more lovely and more temperate”. He is comparing his loved one to summer although in line two he could be talking about either one his mistress or summer. “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of maie” line three. Rough winds are used as a metaphor for change and he implies that his mistress does not suffer from these winds unlike summer. The first lines introduce a base that is expanded on for the rest of the sonnet.
The poet uses non-human characteristics such as heaven shining to describe his loved one. By using the metaphor of an “eye” line five for the sun the contrast between a person and season becomes alive. He is listing all the ways in which summer with its unpredictable inconsistency does not match up to her “temperance”. He continues describing his loved ones human characteristics to features of summer when he says “gold complexion dim’d” in line six. The middle of the sonnet where it usually splits from the first half to the second is describing summer as changeable beauty. The final part of the sonnet no longer has summer as its focus.
It writes about the almost eternal nature of his wife or loved one. The speaker assures the listener of her beauty using summer as a metaphor, saying that her “eternal summer shall not fade”. Fade was used because at the end of a summer’s day the light fades and turns into night where as her beauty remains. The speaker does not commit his beloved to the same fate as a summer day faces, he has dedicated her to “eternal life” giving her immortality through his poetry. Not even when she dies will her beauty fade it will live forever. “But thy eternall sommer shall not fade, Nor loose possession of that faire thou ow’st”.
Each of the poems shows a different attitude. “My Mistress eyes” shows us the simplest kind of love. It’s not a touching poem. It tells things the way they are and is not trying to attract a girl; he has already got her. “Shall I Compare Thee..? ” and “My Mistress Eyes” are both comparing their mistress to nature. I think this is because they share the same writer, William Shakespeare. He uses natural elements showing that nature is not better quality to humans. However the conclusion of the sonnets is that he loves his loved one more than nature, even though nature is more perfect.
Unlike “My Mistress Eyes” the “Shall I Compare Thee..? ” Sonnet is unsure whether it is fair to compare his loved one to nature, but as you read through the poem you do get the answer. Both “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” are seductive. The poems are written to seduce their mistresses. The purposes of the sonnets by William Shakespeare are to tell their mistresses just how much they love them for their imperfections or their beauty. Whereas the purpose of “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” is to persuade their mistresses to consummate their relationship.
Unlike the two sonnets “Shall I Compare Thee..? ” and “My Mistress Eyes”, “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” are made up of three stanzas. There is a basic couplet rhyming structure. John Donne and Andrew Marvel both write metaphysical poems. Simple ideas have been taken and built upon as for example in “The Flea” being used as a symbol of union, and clear logical arguments are put forward. The similarity seen in these poems is surprising. They each use imagery and variation in rhythm to relay their ideas. The way in which they try to seduce their mistress is also very similar.
Both John Donne and Andrew Marvell have poetry full of vivid imagery, whereas William Shakespeare does not. Both “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” take similar approaches though it is “To His Coy Mistress” that has a more thoughtful approach to “The Flea” which is desperate and could even be seen as begging. John Donne is blunter in his reasoning. The nature of love in William Shakespeare’s sonnets is actually love. It’s the love where you have a great attachment and desire to be with someone. He has intense fondness of this person, while there is not love displayed in “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress”.
The aim is to be involved in sexual intercourse and there is little to do with love. There is desire in these poems too but it’s the desire to “get laid”. The forms of John Donne’s and Andrew Marvell’s poems are in three stanzas, which are made up of a fixed number of lines arranged in definable pattern forming a unit of a poem, whereas William Shakespeare’s are sonnets that consist of fourteen lines and have rhymes arranged according to a fixed scheme. The techniques used by William Shakespeare in his sonnets are flattery and similes; he is comparing using like.
They are also written metaphorically; in “Shall I Compare Thee..? he uses the metaphor of an eye. The techniques used by Andrew Marvell in “To His Coy Mistress” is at first to use flattery but later he changes to arguementary to try and win over his mistress. This poem is also strong metaphorically. He has used tenses and strong imagery changing the tone dramatically. John Donne’s techniques in “The Flea” are also trying to seduce his mistress through argument. The same as “To His Coy Mistress” Donne’s technique to use the flea as a symbol of love rather than something more romantic and passionate add to the significance of his almost bullying.
Though he is saying it light heartedly and is not taking himself seriously so I doubt the woman would be. Andrew Marvell’s technique is bulling and finally desperation in an attempt for his mistress to succumb to his advances. The poem that I find most likeable is “My Mistress Eyes” by William Shakespeare because I think it is touching and romantic. I would like to be the mistress who has this poem read to them. It’s pleasant because it is displaying love not lust. If this was said to you, you would know the person really thinks a lot of you. Although my favourite is “The Flea”.
I got really into this poem and felt passionate hatred for the speaker. I like the way in which the poem is written. I think the woman would have been more annoyed than feeling hatred as she could not get rid of him. Yet she did not leave. He kept her interested maybe intrigued with what he was going to come up with next. Attitudes have changed in many ways in the last four hundred years but the values are still the same. Years ago it was seen as acceptable for men to go out and have a night of lust, but always with a “lady of the night”. Prostitutes are still treated as lower class citizens.
Men and women can have a one night stand now and nothing would be said. A person’s virginity is not regarded in the same way. In “Grease”, the movie, there is a song called “Sandra Dee” where they make fun of her virginity “strangled with virginity”. The typical attitude of the 1950s women is to guard there virginity but the pink ladies are mocking the normal attitude. They are rebels. The tradition of waiting until your wedding night has long gone; women do not guard their virginity anymore. In the 1960s the invention of the contraception pill made sex free and easy. It is accepted that people are not virgins when or if they marry.
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