The stereotype of poetry is that poems are written to exemplify a relationship between two people who are so infatuated with each other it is said that they are “in love” and this can give meaning to what is commonly referred to as a love poem. Poets John Donne and Andrew Marvell write such poetry however, their poems “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, and “To His Coy Mistress”, consider two different concepts. Although they are addressing love, they are dealing with different aspects of it. The two poems can be contrasted in form, poetic devices such as symbols, tone, rhyme, and the rhythmical pattern.
Symbols and tone can often encourage the reader to look for underlying mental representations that will connect them to the text to put different elements like the mood of the writer or hidden motives into perspective. The form and rhyme scheme can be applied to the person the poem is addressing, and when analyzed further, it can determine unconscious feelings and meanings that may be expressed by the writer. When using a certain rhythmical pattern, the writer can point out exactly how he feels about his subject. Donne’s poem is in stanzaic form and the rhyming scheme is ABAB, CDCD, etc.
In lines one through four, “As virtuous men pass mildly away, / The breath goes now, and some say, no”, the rhyming words: “away”, “go”, “say”, and “no” because of the repetition of sounds can already make the reader feel bored. The words themselves can also reflect a negative feeling of being unwanted. These bland, organized sentences and the rhyme patterns show the speaker’s unattached attitude, and take away from the excitement of the subject of love. Marvell’s poem uses continuous rhyming couplets to illustrate love’s unconventional and irrational aspects, as love usually is.
They take two separate lines and make a matching pair out of them. Often he uses words that can symbolize togetherness like “all” and “ball” as he writes: 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. (41-44) This rhyme scheme can make a relation to two people, a couple, joining together. Donne uses symbols pertaining to natural phenomena like air and water, and the use of the circle is a prevalent shape throughout the poem.
The circle symbolizes their souls. The man’s and the woman’s lives together are represented in a never-ending cycle. When they leave each other, all they have done is changed that circle. Movement in a circle is continuous which is expressed when he writes “Thy firmness makes my circle just, And makes me end, where I begun” (35-36). If two people truly belong together, the union of their souls is still together, just as the circle always remains connected. The natural phenomena used such as “Tear floods” and “sigh-tempests” (6), suggest air and water.
These examples present the use of a hyperbole that Donne uses to tell his lover not to show any emotion when he leaves. A tearing flood would be one where there are uncontrollable, gushing tears falling from her eyes, and the sighing tempests would present a lot of drawn out complaining. The speaker denotes that like natural phenomena occurring, it is natural for two bodies to be apart and should not occur with a lot of commotion. Marvell uses geological and astronomical images like the water, desert, ashes, and solar powers.
An example of this would be when he states: “I would love you ten years before the floodconversion of the Jews” (8-10). The referral to the flood of the Ganges River as well as the converting of the Jewish people to the Christian religion mean that it could be centuries of waiting if they waited because of religious reasons. The phrase “Deserts of vast eternity” (24) give emphasis to his mistress drying up much like a desert if she is hesitant much longer. He uses “into ashes all my lust” (30), to show that much like her desert, his lust will dry up and turn to ashes.
Geological and astronomical images are to make the assumption that nature is spontaneous, and humans should be as well. In “To His Coy Mistress” Marvell uses physical image, to aid the speaker’s argument to convince his mistress to yield to him. He is writing this poem to seduce his “coy mistress” to have sex with him. When he tells her “Now let us sport us while me may” (37), the speaker is telling his mistress that they should do as they please. When he writes “and now, like amorous birds of prey, rather at once our time devour than languish in his slow-chapped power” (38-40), he means we should act now before it is too late.
This brings to light the element of carpe diem, or “seize the day” that seems to be Marvell’s whole message in this poem. It is an argument to convince her to give up her virginity while she is still young and beautiful. Marvell writes specifically to the object of his desire. This one-on-one context suggests to the reader that he is writing directly to her in hopes of convincing her to his whim. To enforce his argument Marvell uses a pleading tone. The tone in Donne’s poem seems to be rather depressing, such as one would use when separating.
The poem also is not addressing its subject, the woman, directly. The concept of indirectness points to the author’s lack of emotion. He is remaining emotionless and indifferent to avoid any confrontation from her. He wants their separation to be as quick and as painless as possible. Since these two poems deal with completely different aspects of love, they must have been written differently. Their different forms can be analyzed to get the individual interpretation of meaning to be gathered from each. They both come across differently to the reader.
One poem is about sexual love and the other poem is about the end of love. This just shows that not all love poems are about falling in love. When a person hears the phrase: “love poem,” he naturally thinks that it will be about a love smitten male or female. These two poems just prove that there are many aspects of love that are not necessarily about falling in love. Love poems can also be about separating from our loved one or even about giving in to lust and temptation. From this the reader learns that there are more definitions to a love poem than originally thought.