Compare Ideas and Images in the Six Metaphysical Love Poems Paper

Published: 2021-09-10 16:40:10
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Noted for their tendency toward psychological analysis of the emotions, metaphysical poetry offers an extensive range of love poems. The ideas and imagery contained within these poems are habitually written in the form of an extended metaphor, often to support a passionate argument from the poet either with himself, God or, in this case, a lover. Alongside such metaphors, the poets in question also favoured the use of conceits (outrageous puns used to sustain an argument). I hope to pay particular attention to these witty analogies throughout this piece. Despite the brief and concentrated subject matter for each individual poem, the contemporaries of the seventeenth century intended to shock a great majority of the public and their critics with their unconventional rough verse and strained imagery.The six love poems included in this comparison were written by two of the most distinguished metaphysical poets of their time. Andrew Marvell, the son of a vicar, was a Member of Parliament for Hull alongside his position as a successful, yet controversial poet. His poems are: “To His Coy Mistress”, “The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers” and “The Fair Singer”. John Donne converted from Catholicism to Protestantism at an early age. This contentious attitude is also mirrored in his poetry, where customary convention is forgotten. His poems are: “The Sun Rising”, “Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed” and “The Flea”. Many themes are common throughout all six of the above, and I hope to explore a select few below.The presence of a beautiful female, lusted after by the poet is prominent in each poem. With the eventual intention, in most cases, of bedding this female in mind, the use of flattery is clearly evident. In To His Coy Mistress, Marvell suggests that at this present time, her youthful attractiveness is potent enough to fulfil his every desire:”…the youthful hueSits on thy skin like morning dew,”Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed is similar to To His Coy Mistress in that both poets are prepared to say or do anything in order to achieve their aim. In this example, Donne attempts to charm his beloved by explaining that as appealing as her clothes are, they conceal a far more beauteous state. The same poet expresses further flattery in The Sun Rising. However, unlike previous examples, it appears that his undue compliments are a boasting of his great conquest rather than a desperate attempt to convince the girl to bow to his wishes:”If her eyes have not blinded thine,”Further adulation without lascivious intentions is obvious throughout Marvell’s The Fair Singer”. In this instance, the poet is not speaking directly to his lover, but to himself or perhaps the reader. His flattery implies adoration for the girl, as if resistance is futile. This is surprising, as it is unlike the metaphysical poets to accept defeat so readily to a woman’s omnipotence. Yet Andrew Marvell also struggled to rebuff his feelings for the subject of The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers, as he paid tribute to her beauty:”This darling of the Gods..”On many an occasion, flattery failed to impress the poet’s female oppressor into bed. Subsequently, numerous forms of persuasion are utilised instead. Many of these form the basis of the extended metaphor for the poem. One such example is Donne’s flea analogy. A trivial fleabite incurred by himself and his mistress initiates his somewhat elaborate argument in which he illustrates the supposed insignificance of the loss of virginity. The poet trivialises the matter by explaining how their blood, resting in the gut of the flea, is consequently mingled together, no more so than during the act of sexual intercourse. However, in Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed, Donne differs his argument. He is more assertive and appears to command the woman to remove her clothes. Yet, as the poem draws to a close, he makes use of another persuasive attribute, reassurance:”To teach thee, I am naked first; why thenWhat need’st thou have more covering than a man.”Donne is saying that she need not worry or be anxious about appearing naked in front of her, for he will cover her body. On the other hand, in To His Coy Mistress, Marvell adopts the same analogical approach as The Flea. He endeavours to exploit his beloved’s naivety by means of assuring her that if time were on their side, he would not hesitate to delay the consummation of their relationship until such a time when she desired. However, the poet soon startles the girl as his argument becomes more nefarious. He declares that if she were to die early, only worms would remain to take her virginity as she would be buried underground:”…then worms shall tryThat long preserved virginity,”This form of persuasion is possibly the most contemptible of all.Another common theme that runs through these poems, and which would be frowned upon today, is that of referring to the woman as territory or land which must be conquered. Consequently, the lady in question is often labelled an enemy, and military imagery is commonplace. In The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers, Marvell assumes that when the young girl matures, she will fend off the advances of men and become their enemy. He even goes as far as to compare a man’s downfall to this girl to his ensign becoming torn in battle. In the quote below, the poet implies that only sycophantic behaviour will overcome her:”Happy, who canAppease this virtuous enemy of man!”However, in The Fair Singer, the poet explains how he can not escape from the woman. Although this supports the premonition from The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers in that girls mature into the enemy of man, in this case it appears that the poet is under the control of the lover. He argues that she has such great attractiveness, he can not dominate her:”It had been easy fighting in some plain,Where victory might hang in equal choice,But all resistance against her is vain,”This could imply that waging war on the battlefield would be simpler than attempting not to yield to the girl, or it may suggest that he could effortlessly resist a woman of lesser beauty. Further reference to territory appears in The Sun Rising. Donne’s poem is similar to The Fair Singer in that he hyperbolises the importance of conquering his beloved. He suggests that she is worthy of all states and territory placed together, and that he is comparatively insignificant:”She is all States, and all Princes, INothing else is.”Alongside the theme of territorial attitudes, the metaphysical poets also appear entirely possessive. In Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed, Donne envisions his delight at discovering “new-found-land” before listing its resources as belonging to him:”My mine of precious stones, my empery,”The poet also states that as the area belongs to him, he should guard it from others. It appears that men at the time were involved in one ongoing contest to seek out the most girls, and to shelter them from others for the longest period of time.Religion played a great part in the seventeenth century society. In fact, as I have said, Andrew Marvell and John Donne were both brought up as devout Christians. It is surprising, however, for a number of the poems to refer so clearly to religious conceptions, when many are centered around lust; one of the seven deadly sins. For example, in The Flea, Donne convinces his mistress that their love is genuine and holy by labelling the animal (in which their blood is mingled) a “marriage temple”. The same poet refers to this image again in Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed. Donne reassures his mistress that his bed is not a site of corruption, but sacred and comforting. This would have been an effective method of persuading the girl into bed, as was discussed in an earlier paragraph:”In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed!However, within a few lines, the religious imagery is no longer sanctified. Donne compares his mistress to an angel, but not because of her purity and innocence, but because she is an object of desire. The reference to angels causing flesh to stand on end would have outraged the church at the time and it appears was deliberately controversial. The Picture Of little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers by Andrew Marvell, may also have caused offence as the poet elevated the girl to the position commonly associated with Eve. He imagines her to give names, colours and smells to the flowers:”…tamesThe wilder flowers, and gives them names:”It seems that the metaphysical poets targeted the church as one of their chief critics, however, in some circumstances, the biblical references are merely present to add support to an argument. For example, in To His Coy Mistress, Marvell uses religion to emphasise his argument that it would not matter how long his beloved took to succumb to him, if time were on their side:”I wouldLove you ten years before the Flood,”The mention of the flood implies that the poet would be willing to love her from the beginning of time right through until the point they make love and beyond.The sun controls time. Subsequently a number of the poems welcome this, whilst others do not. In The Sun rising, the poet reprimands the sun for disturbing them so early. He does not wish for time to advance, for he is so in love and wishes the moment would never end. He feels that time has become inappropriate, therefore. On the other hand, time is critical in To His Coy Mistress. Marvell argues that they should sleep together before time runs out. Life is too short for coyness. There is also a mention of the sun, as the poet states that instead of halting time, they should make the most of it:”Thus, though we cannot make our sunStand still, yet we will make him run.”These poems are similar in that both subjects wish for time to stand still, however, as this is not possible, they should use their precious time together to the maximum advantage.The Fair Singer utilises the sun further:”…all my forces needs must be undone,She having gained both the wind and sun.”The poet implies that the sun, along with the wind, is the most powerful force in existence. He compares his beloved’s eyes and voice to these two, as she has complete power over him. She has, in essence, eclipsed his world. Unlike the two poems above, in this instance the sun is assisting the couple as it draws the man towards the woman so as he can yield to her and prevent her from taking over all his thoughts. The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers envisions the object of the poet’s admiration to grow into a resplendent young women. Therefore time is not hindering, but progressing. Yet the poet also feels that as time moves on, the girl will break the hearts of many young suitors. In this context, time is hurtful. The poet conveys his belief, by expressing his remorse that the girl will not remain innocent forever:”Reform the errors of the spring;…But most procureThat violets may a longer age endure.”The poet is declaring that he wishes her youth would sustain itself over a longer period of time. He makes use of an interesting conceit here, as innocence is in the form of a flower and nature as a whole.On a darker note, the motif of death is utilised to support many an argument. In To His Coy Mistress the poet attempts to startle the girl by forcing her to imagine a scenario where she has passed away a virgin. Death, in this case, is an intensely intimidating form of persuasion. An additional example of a powerful argument entailing death occurs in The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers:”Lest Flora angry at thy crime,To kill her infants in their prime,”Here, the poet is saying that once the youthful innocence of young girls is lost, their beauty disappears. Marvell implies that to remove this innocence at an early age would be to kill them, as they no longer appear attractive. In The Fair Singer, Marvell describes the woman as “fatal”. He also adds that he will believe this until the day he dies. This enables us to imagine the feeling of control he considers himself to be under. These poems all portray death as a formidable and frightening force. However, in The Flea, Donne’s argument is entirely different. Once the woman kills the flea, she believes that his argument concerning their compounded blood has been crushed. Yet Donne states that to sleep with him would be as insignificant as the deed she has just performed. Not only does Donne trivialise the death of the flea, he attempts to lower the importance of copulation:”Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to meWill waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.”The value of love and intercourse is also varied from poem to poem. A selection devalue both and appear crude to a reader. However, a number do not. The Flea is possibly the most notable example of how love and intercourse are depreciated. The argument is extreme and possibly humorous. The comparison of such a consequential event to that of a deceased flea is desperate and shows no sign of genuine care and love. Similarly, Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed is strongly argued. However, once again, the imagery used by Marvell is not from the heart, but from the loins:”Your gown going off such beauteous state reveals”On the other hand, the same poet expresses his delight in The Fair Singer that love “composed so sweet an enemy”. This is in direct contrast to Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed, as he makes no reference to bedding the woman immediately. This implies that their relationship is not based on lust. Donne also offers a contrasting approach in his poem The Sun Rising. He is besotted by the girl and wants to spend as much time as possible with her. He will not close his eyes even to block out the obtrusive sun:”I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,But that I would not lose her sight so long:”It can be said that this is a fa�ade, and that Donne is behaving in this way because he has received from his beloved what he wanted. If this were to be the case, the value of love would have been diminished more so than any of the previous examples. In To His Coy Mistress, Marvell provides an example of such a scene. He says that he would be prepared to wait an eternity for his mistress to sleep with him, if only there was more time. The poet regards the act of sleeping with a woman as something which simply must be done and in the fastest possible time. Like Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed and The Flea, the man cares not for the moral value of such an occurrence.In addition, The Picture Of Little T.C. In A Prospect Of Flowers is a poignant longing on behalf of the poet for the girl to mature to an age which would be acceptable for him to court. However, he is worried that she will become cold towards men. He is not anxious she will refuse his love, but worried she will not sleep with him. By considering this, Marvell has already removed her innocence, in a way. The reference to the loss of innocence as a death proves that the poet does not believe a romance can exist after they sleep together. Love in particular is considered unimportant as far as many of these poems go.I believe that in the previous paragraph I have somewhat expressed my personal opinion on the nature of these six metaphysical poems. To His Coy Mistress and Elegy: On His Mistress Going To Bed are not, I believe, worthy of the heading “love poems” for they are centred around lust on behalf of the poet. There is no evidence of love. These two examples are also relatively simple, there is no mystery surrounding either what the poet desires or why.The Fair Singer and The Sun Rising are my two preferred pieces. In both, the poet is not speaking to his mistress but reminiscing about her. The imagery in this circumstance is far more effective and helps to paint a greater picture of the couple’s relationship. Despite this difference, I was surprised at the consistency of the common themes throughout all six poems. This helped me to imagine a seventeenth century society where social morals did not appear to play a grand part in the male seduction techniques, in particular those of the contemporary metaphysical poets.

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