Love in To His Coy Mistress and The Flea

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Love in To His Coy Mistress and The Flea

Both 'To His Coy Mistress', by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) and 'The

Flea', by John Donne (1572-1631) present different attitudes to love.

Both are also structured very differently and occasionally use

contrasting imagery. Each poem was written in the 17th century, just

after the Renaissance. The poets were metaphysical poets. Although the

'metaphysic' was originally a derogatory term, metaphysical poetry

used intellectual and theological concepts in an ingenious way.

Metaphysical poetry was partly written in rebellion against the highly

conventional Elizabethan love poetry just prior to the time.

Conventional love poetry what one would generally expect of a love

poem. A perhaps typical love poem of the era would have been: 'Shall I

Compare Thee To A Summer's Day,' by William Shakespeare (16th sonnet)

where lavish compliments and imagery are used to flatter. 'The Flea'

and 'To His Coy Mistress', however, are very unconventional and like

most metaphysical poetry are the complete opposite of what a reader

might expect of love poetry. The poems do this by using the

'metaphysical conceit', where an elaborate metaphor or simile is used

to present an unusually apt parallel between dissimilar things or

feelings. This is shown especially in 'The Flea'. The poems also

tended to challenge conventional rhythm, using a ragged, irregular

movement.

The consummation of love is presented as a tiny, insignificant

creature in 'The Flea', through one basic central image. The imagery

symbolises the act of love to make it seem trivial, this being the

speaker's main argument. This implies that love is not part...

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changes to suit the lover's actions. This is significant as it shows

that although he appears dominant in the relationship, he is still

completely reliant on the lover. This indicates that typical relations

between men and women were that men had the power over women in a

sense, yet here this woman's permission is essential.

The fact that Marvell uses time imagery is relevant to love in the 21st

century as his issue that time is always 'hurrying near' (L.22) seems

to give Carpe Diem a great significance. It seems that his strong

confidence can have great influence on not only the lady that he is

wooing but also the world. The passion expressed and the underlying

message translates into the modern cliché that life is simply 'too

short' to suppress true love.

¹ Note: This point was researched on the Internet.
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