This essay is a comparison between the following three love poems, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell, ‘I wanna be yours’ by John Cooper Clarke and ‘Our Love Now’ by Martyn Lowery.
All three of them are ‘love poems’ but not in the traditional sense. They are all concerned with a man attempting to persuade a woman.
The first two poems, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ and ‘I wanna be yours’ do not show the woman’s side of the story or her opinion. The last poem ‘Our Love Now’ is of a different style as the woman completely expresses her feelings. I will go through each poem individually assessing its language, structure, imagery, tone and attitude. Then I will compare the three in a conclusion at the end.
The title of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ tells us that Andrew Marvell is writing the poem to give it to his shy mistress; to tell her how he feels about her. He seduces his mistress by trying to persuade her to make love.
‘Let us sport while we may’
The language contains many metaphors and similes, for example:
Death – is ‘vast deserts of eternity’ (immeasurable years of nothing). Time – travels on a ‘winged chariot’ (passes quickly).
In this poem, Marvell demonstrates considerable skill in his manipulation of language. The alliteration on the ‘w’s in lines 3 and 4 slows the pace down and this is succeeded by the sensuous alliteration and assonance in the phrase
‘Our long love’s day’
In the third section of the poem, Marvell uses the word ‘now’ to insist on the immediacy of the need for action. He also creates suspense by delaying the verb in the sentence that begins ‘Now, therefore…’ (Line 33)
‘To His Coy Mistress’ is structured with a regular rhythm and rhyming couplets, reflecting a persistent development of an argument. Andrew begins his argument by seeming to acknowledge the woman’s point of view, then arguing against it and finally dismissing it.
The poem contains lots of imagery and symbolism. The poet starts by saying that if time were infinite he would be happy to use the time to worship her and wait. We can see this from these quotes:
‘Had we but world enough, and time’
‘We would sit down and think which way’
‘I would love you ten years before the flood’
Then he moves on to say, that he is aware that time is not infinite and that as time passes, death is ever closer.
‘But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.’
Finally he ends by saying that, therefore they should live for today and repeats the word ‘now’.
‘Now let us sport while we may,
And now like amorous birds of prey’
The poem starts with the extreme use of hyperbole when he flatters her by exaggerating how much he worships her beauty.
‘Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest.’
By the middle of the poem, the tone has turned more serious, almost cruel when he tells her that her virginity and honour will mean nothing when she turns into food for worms and dust.
‘That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,’
In this poem there is a strong attitude and tone throughout with the man describing the woman as being coy and beautiful and then suggesting that her virginity is ‘long preserved’ and her honour is ‘quaint’ hinting that he doesn’t take her views seriously.
At the beginning of the poem Marvell’s attitude starts off trying to be romantic and flattering but near the end he becomes more aggressive and demanding. The philosophy in this poem is often referred to as ‘carpe diem’ a Latin phrase meaning ‘seize the day’.
In such a poem, the speaker expresses his sadness at the thought of swiftly passing time and the brevity of life. The poet sometimes addresses his thoughts to a girl who is reluctant to yield her virginity.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a conventional poem, which means that in those times it was fashionable to write in this way. We could also consider that Marvell himself may not have meant a word of it.
Marvell’s poem has been referred to as a love poem, but it is not really aimed at his mistress’s heart solely at her body.
Unlike the first poem, ‘I wanna be yours’ by John Cooper Clarke is written in the form of a pop song and uses no punctuation. Again it is a man trying to persuade a woman, he is addressing that he wants to belong to her. He also refers to another woman ‘I don’t wanna be hers’ which is suggesting that he is in an unsatisfactory relationship. The woman is addressed but not referred to; he offers to be all to her and insists he is devoted to her. However, there is no suggestion of her response or feelings. This is a hoped for relationship, he makes no demands.
‘You call the shots’
The language in this poem is full of everyday items. It contains no romantic associations such as flowers and chocolates but things that offer warmth (heater, coffee pot), protection (raincoat), comfort (teddy bear) etc. It also has references to pop songs like (‘let me be your teddy bear’) by Elvis Presley. These objects give the sense of warmth and reliability, someone who will stick by her at all times and is committed.
The poem has a structure of three stanzas of the phrase ‘let me be’; the third stanza is extended by repeated reference to deep devotion. They all begin with ‘let me be’ and end with ‘I wanna be yours’.
It has a regular rhyme scheme and rhythm. There is a definite rhyme scheme in this poem. Stanzas 1 and 2 have a strict rhyming pattern of ‘ABABCCCD’. Stanza 3 differs and has a pattern of ‘ABABCDCECECC’, and the final two lines do not rhyme.
When John Cooper Clarke wrote ‘I wanna be yours’ he decided to add lots of imagery and symbolism which has a surprising effect on love poems. He used modern everyday items such as coffee pot, heater, raincoat and teddy bear to symbolise things like warmth, protection and comfort.
The first stanza immediately starts the list of useful things the speaker wants to be to the girl. The bizarre idea of the vacuum cleaner is the first thing we read.
‘let me be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust’
Then the speaker presents us with the image of the ‘Ford Cortina’, which was a popular car in the 1970s, and was known to be solid and reliable, certainly a car that would not rust.
‘let me be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust’
Then the poet indicates that he is prepared to give the girl control over their lives in line 7.
The tone of this poem sounds like a relentless persuasion, there is no concern, just pleading repetition of ‘let me’. Regular rhyme and metre create the musical effect that would make the words suitable as lyrics, but they also provide the definite effect needed for the repetition and emphasis of the speaker’s feelings and the point he builds up to at the end of the poem.
The man’s attitude in this love poem is romantic and very pleading; he seems to be desperate for her love.
Very different from the first two poems, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ and ‘I wanna be yours’, ‘Our Love Now’ by Lowery is a conversation between two people, alternate stanzas are written in the first person and a woman (I said, she said). There is nothing in the poem to say that the first person is a man but since the poet is a man, we are assuming that it is between a man and woman.
The language of this poem uses metaphors to describe the damage done to their relationship. Here are some examples of that:
He said, “Frightening but soon forgotten”
She said, “Damage is irreparable”
Example: ‘The storm is frightening
But it will soon be gone.’
‘The tree is forever dead.
Such is our love now’
This represents a storm over their relationship.
He said, “Re-grows, feels complete again”
She said: ‘changes occur, never exactly the same’
Example: ‘But the hair grows – before long
it is always the same.’
‘changes must occur,
the style will be different.
Such is our love now.’
Then they describe the damage like a haircut that has a different style.
He said, “Will disappear”
She said, “Pain goes but numbness is left”
Example: ‘but it can be hidden.
In time it will disappear’
‘the skin remains bleached
and a numbness prevails.
Such is our love now’
She insists that the pain is like a scar that remains after the wound.
He said, “Heals and becomes whole”
She said, “appears cured but scar remains”
Example: ‘how the skin slowly knits
And once more becomes whole.’
‘There is always a scar,
a permanent reminder.
Such is our love now.’
Again, they are referring to the pain as a wound.
‘Our Love Now” is structured with regular stanzas. The first four are his and then hers but on the page, they are set out in two columns so hers are replies to his. The stanzas begin with ‘I said’ or ‘she said’ followed by five more lines except for their final stanzas, which are followed by six lines. The form is balanced but she always has the last word. Each pair of stanzas has its own metaphor for the damage, pain, loss and rage that has affected the relationship.
To give a good idea of imagery the poet uses metaphors like wound, scab, haircut and storm to symbolise their relationship. Every verse in the poem is full of imagery. The male speaker mentions the ‘raging storm’ which causes damage but is ‘soon – gone’. The storm could symbolise the argument that has caused the damage to their relationship.
In this poem, the tone differs according to the male/female viewpoint. The tone of the first four stanzas seems desperate and pleading. His are hopeful and reassuring however, hers are depressed and certain. When the woman speaks, it is final. She seems numbed by the pain the man has caused her ‘a numbness prevails’ and unwilling to continue the relationship. Her first three stanzas end with ‘such is our love now’ but the final stanza of the poem is hers and ends with ‘such is our love’ suggesting that it will always be dead to her, she has no hope of the repair he speaks of.
The key idea of this poem is trust and how relationships change. The damage done to this relationship is irreparable, no matter how hard the man tries to salvage it. He is in a position of weakness where as the woman is in a position of power. He seems desperate to repair, cover up or forget the damage, which has been done. However, the woman dismisses his attempts to persuade or change her mind and is very stubborn.
There is a clear difference between gender attitudes in this love poem.
Their relationship can be interpreted in two different ways, the first person suggests metaphors to show her that all can be forgotten but she looks at the images and throws them back at him with her own feelings.
I concluded that out of all three poems my favourite is ‘I wanna be yours’ because I believe it has the modernist language and I liked phrases such as
‘let me be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust’
This is my favourite line because he is expressing how his charm will never rust. I also like the tune of this poem. My least favourite poem is ‘To His Coy Mistress’ because the language is very old and confusing and the man seems too desperate like it’s the end of the world or something.
With ‘To His Coy Mistress’ I think the woman would give into his argument because it is very convincing and powerful, he also sounds very aggressive. However, in ‘I wanna be yours’ I think the woman may disagree with his argument because the poem states that he is with another woman whom he wishes to leave to be with her.
‘I don’t wanna be hers,
I wanna be yours’
Language wise, they all contain imagery and rhyming structure but only ‘Our Love Now’ contains the woman’s point of view.
I think they all did a good job at trying to persuade a woman but Andrew Marvell probably did the best job because of his powerful manipulation of language.