In this essay I am going to be writing about the poems The Sun Rising (John Donne), To His Coy Mistress (Andrew Marvell). I am going to be looking for the rhyme, language and the overall effect that the poets use to create different atmospheres in their poems. John Donne was a famous writer of love poetry in the late 1500’s. He writes his poems using a tone of real speech, making the experience of the poem seem immediate. On the other hand, Andrew Marvell uses deep thought about love. This deep thought leads to the use of the shocking jokes, which may be seen by some to be disturbing. Marvell wrote in the mid 17th Century and was famous for writing many different types of poems including love poems and poems that attacked the government.
Both poems that I am studying were written in the period of metaphysical poetry (1590 – 1670). Metaphysical poems have a tendency to contain core themes, often written with the use of conceits and metaphorical contexts. Both The Sun Rising and To His Coy Mistress are love poems. They show their feelings for a loved one in different ways, mixing their own style, complex images and different language into their writing. To his Coy Mistress is about a lover trying to persuade his mistress to take their relationship one step further before times time takes away their beauty and they are taken to their graves. The Sun Rising is again about a lover and his mistress. But this time, the lover is talking to the sun, who has risen and woken them up, to stop disturbing them as they are lovers and they are in a world of their own and they do not need to be woken up.
To His Coy Mistress can be seen as a slightly more forceful poem when compared with the more calming The Sun Rising. This can be seen through the structure in which he writes the poem. He has three stanzas, using ‘Had’ ‘But’ and ‘Therefore’ in each. This brings across a more aggressive poem in contrast to the usual love styling of The Sun Rising. The ‘Had’ in the first stanza, informs us of what the lovers would do if they had all the time in the world, ‘had we but world enough and time’. By saying, ‘Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side should’st rubies find’, the poet creates a vibrant reflection of magnificence and beauty. He cunningly mentioned rubies, a fairly rare and attractive stone; it captures the deep shade of their love.
The Sun Rising describes two lovers being awakened by the sun rising, to which the lover is justly perturbed. He portrays this by saying, ‘Busy old fool, unruly sun’, letting out his frustration on the unwelcome intruder. Donne takes this idea and then expands on it, ‘saucy, pedantic wretch’, showing the sun is being rude for
intruding on their privacy. Even though he does want the sun to leave them alone, ‘I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink’, he does not want to lose the beautiful sight of lover, ‘but I would not lose her sight so long’. Donne uses a mixture of short and long lines to show how annoyed he is with the sun. In the first simple line, Donne is telling the sun off for not playing by the rules. He uses colloquial language to tell the sun to just go away and leave them alone. In the first stanza, Donne is personifying the sun treating it like a person in telling him to leave the two lovers alone and to and disturb the “late school boys”, “sour ‘prentices”, “court huntsmen” and the “country ants” instead. The poem lacks a distinct rhyming scheme. The way that the poem rhymes is ‘ABBACDCDEE’. It is in the form of a rhyming quatrain with a rhyming couplet at the end of each stanza. This is very different to the distinct rhyming scheme of To His Coy Mistress, which uses a rhyming tetrameter. It also has a rhyming couplet on every line expect lines 7 & 8, which is at the end of the first joke (line 7) and the first hyperbole (line 8). This rhyming scheme uses 8 syllables per line, which shows a sense of urgency. Again the short lines stress on the urgency that Marvell is trying to show.
Marvell uses the phrase ‘My vegetable love should grow’; it uses a conceit to show time in a metaphorical sense. These words produce a picture of slow growing love that is always alive. His forever love can be shown through the hyperbole, ‘vaster than empires and more slow’. Empires are seen to be strong, so he uses his love and compares its greatness to an empire. Marvell uses many literary devices such as jokes, hyperboles, similes and metaphors to achieve the effect that he is after. In the first stanza alone he uses three jokes:
“Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Should’st rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain” (lines 5-7)
After this first joke, Marvell sets out in using hyperboles to exaggerate his love for his mistress. He uses eight hyperboles in the first stanza starting on line 8 and continuing on each line till 18 missing out a hyperbole on lines 9,11,13. All these hyperboles add to the effect as he is trying to tell his mistress how much he loves her and how he feels that they need to take a further step in their relationship. In the second stanza, Marvell becomes more aggressive giving warnings to his mistress that time running out; each couplet in the second stanza forms a warning apart from the last couplet which is a joke. Many of the warnings contain metaphors to increase the effectiveness of the poem:
“Times winged chariot” (line 22)
“Deserts of vast eternity” (line 24)
“My echoing song” (Line 27)
All the above are examples of metaphors used. An example of one of the warnings is stated below:
“then worms shall try that long preserved virginity” (line 27-28)
This is very threatening language used by Marvell. Donne uses different language to express his point. His poem shows more love rather than lust as is shown in To his Coy Mistress. He continuously tells the sun to leave him and his mistress alone. He personifies the sun and talks to him as a human. The last word in the first stanza of Donne’s poem “are the rags of time” which is a metaphor. Like Marvell, Donne also uses hyperboles to add to the effect of his poem. He uses in total 13 hyperboles in the poem all in the last to stanzas.
“I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long” (lines 13-14)
In the above quote, Donne tells the sun that if he wanted to he could shut out the sun by just blinking. Such a simple act would over rule the powerful sun, however Donne will not blink, as blinking will also mean that he is not able to see the beauty of his mistress. In the final four lines of the last stanza Donne says:
“Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere,
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.” (lines 27-30)
This is a conceit that Donne uses to show that world is the bedroom. This is because to the two lovers the whole world is there in that room, and so as the sun is shining into that room, it is doing its job by shining over the whole world.
Marvell’s poem uses dark and morbid imagery. ‘Then worms shall try that long preserved virginity’. Marvell uses this ‘black’ phrase as warning to his mistress to hurry up their relationship as time is running out and if they do not hurry up their relationship then he will not take her virginity but the worms in her grave will. The second stanza in To His Coy Mistress ends in a rhyming couplet, which is a black humoured joke:
“The grave’s a fine and private place,
but none I think do there embrace.” (lines 31-32)
In the last stanza, Marvell uses similes, “like amorous birds of prey” and “thy youthful hue sits on thy skin like morning due”. These similes are used to great effect in urging his mistress to give in to him. But this language is much harsher and more aggressive than the rest of his poem. Words such as ‘devour’, ‘tear’, and ‘rough strife’ add to the aggressiveness of “like amorous birds of prey”. He even uses hints of violence in the last stanza:
“At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour” (lines 36-39)
“Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.” (lines 41-44)
Overall I feel that Marvell’s poem is very harsh in the way that it tries to convince the lover to take the relationship a step further. The language used, hyperbole, metaphors and the jokes, fit the type of poem very well as the short lines and language used is very convincing. I see The Sun Rising by John Donne as two lovers who experience true love, as they cannot tolerate being apart from one another. It uses much more pleasant language, however the personification of the sun allows the poem to talk to the sun directly and hence express his love by telling the sun how they were the whole world and how they meant everything.