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
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...
... middle of paper ...
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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