Love in The Flea and To his Coy Mistress

Powerful Essays
Love in The Flea and To his Coy Mistress

Compare the ways John Donne in his poem The Flea and Andrew Marvell

in his poem To his Coy Mistress present the theme of love.

Donne and Marvell’s poems have both similarities and differences, as

they both present the theme of love in an unconventional way and dwell

on it superficially. This can be seen by the way in which both authors

show their views on love, though are clearly just using them as

attempts to seduce their mistresses, who are clearly reluctant. Taking

this into account, I feel that these “love poems” are more about lust

than love and are more focussed on the writer’s efforts of seduction.

Both poems are one sided dialogues between the poet and his mistress.

They do, however, differ in the ways in which they try to portray

their feelings on the topic, with Donne’s “The Flea”, depicting him as

comparing sexual intercourse with the way in which his blood is

mingled with that of his mistress in a flea, which has bitten both of

them. By doing this, he is incorporating 17th Century principles, such

as the belief that sexual intercourse involved the mingling of the two

bloods, and constantly refers to the flea, in an attempt to persuade

his mistress.

Marvell, however, introduces a hypothetical situation to argue his

case, with the central statement that he uses to bring his mistress

round to his line of thought being “Carpe Diem.” This derives from

Latin and translates “Seize the Day,” with Marvell using it to

emphasise that time is against them. The difference here, between the

two poems, is that Donne is saying that they’ve already had sex in the

flea, and therefore the whole affair is no longer a big deal, while

Marvell is suggesting a sense of...

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...erious note than Marvell, however, by using some strong biblical

imagery to show his mistress that, by killing the flea she has

committed a sin and, if she realises this, she has shown that she

feels intercourse is no big deal.

Overall, I feel that, rather than being “love” poems, these are both

superficial examples of love, which are actually implicated on lust

and seduction. A factor which supports this theory is that Donne

doesn’t even mention love throughout the entire course of his poem,

while Marvell uses love to show the extent of his feelings for his

mistress and, even then, admits that it is merely vegetable love,

which is a basic concept of love being no more than reproduction, and

therefore sex. I feel that Marvell’s poem can also, however, be

associated with making the most of life, as he clearly argues this

point in “To his Coy Mistress.”
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