Comparing Philosophies of Donne's To His Mistress and Herrick's Corrina Going A-Maying

Comparing Philosophies of Donne's To His Mistress and Herrick's Corrina Going A-Maying

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Comparing Philosophies of Donne's To His Mistress and Herrick's Corrina Going A-Maying  


The seventeenth century in England produced two varying schools of poetic philosophy which included the metaphysical and the cavalier. While the metaphysical poets, comprised of the artists who followed John Donne's use of the metaphysical conceit, tended to reinforce the traditional forms of love and devotion, the cavalier poets, led by Ben Johnson, intellectualized the themes of their poetry. Both metaphysical and cavalier poets such as John Donne and Robert Herrick experimented with poetry of seduction, dramatic verse from a male lover attempting to persuade his beloved. Although both poets attempt to incite their mistresses, the methods of persuasion in Donne's "To His Mistress Going to Bed" and Herrick's "Corrina's Going A-Maying" differ in accordance with their different schools of poetic thought. Whereas Donne employs a lustful attitude, derogatory diction, and metaphysical conceits to harshly command sexual activity; Herrick utilizes a more intellectual and sensitive argument with his religious undertones, persuasive and playful diction, and personification of nature.

The variation between metaphysical and cavalier poetry can be seen through differences in Donne's and Herrick's attitudes towards their mistresses represented by varying structure, diction, imagery, and religious language. Although both "To His Mistress Going to Bed" and "Corrina's Going A-Maying" contain many imperative sentences, their structural differences reflect Donne's feeling of superiority in spite of Herrick's admiration for his mistress. Donne's simple aabb rhyme scheme indicates his feeling that his mistress either cannot understand or does not des...


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...gently rebuking Corrina for her inactivity.

Although both Donne and Herrick employ imperative structures, sensual imagery, religious language and allusions to persuade their respective mistresses, Donne's superiority complex debases his mistress while Herrick's reverent attitude cajoles. Donne cares very little about his mistress evidenced by the lack of her name throughout the poem which resembles an urgent appeal. Conversely, Herrick's five stanzas and elaborate metrical structure indicate a planned appeal. Donne's lustful and solely physical approach contrasts sharply with Herrick's intellectual ploy in a complimenting and gently rebuking manner. The variance in the approaches of the poets is characteristic of their respective schools of poetic thought and illustrates the differences in approaches to poems of seduction by the metaphysical and cavalier writers.

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