Friday, January 17, 2020

Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ Essay

In this essay I will compare and contrast Andrew Marvell’s poem, ‘To His Coy Mistress’, with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet, ‘How Do I Love Thee†¦?’ Andrew Marvell’s poem is about an older man trying persuade a younger women to ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day), in order to make love to her, by using compliments and flattery, ‘Vaster than empires, and should go to praise.'(Stanza 1, line 12) Additionally, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet is about a female who is expressing her feelings towards a male. Judging by the poem, the woman is deeply in love with the man in a spiritual sense, ‘I love thee to the depth and breadth and height, my soul can reach.’ (Line 2-3) ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a comparatively long poem of 46 lines, which is divided into three stanzas, representing different parts of the argument for which he is trying to persuade her to sleep with him. In the first stanza, the man flatters the women by using grandiose imagery and hyperbole. He says that her ‘coyness’ would be of no consequence ‘had we but world enough and time’ (Line 1) and then follows with more detail in the following stanzas. The older man also shows how interested he is by expressing the magnitude of his feelings, by explaining how he would, ‘love you ten years before the flood’ (Line 8), even if his love were to remain unrequited, ’till the conversation of the Jews.'(Line 10) In addition he then describes how long he would be prepared to appreciate all of her physical attributes, ‘two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest.'(Line 15-16) On one hand, he is trying to prove to the young women how much he wants her; on the other hand she could perceive his words in the wrong way, maybe he just wants to sleep with her? You could argue that this is satirising the king’s court, because even though he is flattering her, it is inappropriate to assume that he would be allowed to look at her for this long period of time. In the second stanza, he continues to us the grandiose imagery from the first stanza, but introduces a sense of urgency. When he says, ‘but’ in the very first line, the audience realises that there is going to be a shift in focus. He now says that he hears ‘times winged chariot hurrying near.'(Line 22) From this point, his imagery becomes increasingly desperate. He tries to shock the women into sleeping with him, by talking about her ‘coyness’, and if she perseveres in life that way, she runs the risk of only ‘worms†¦trying that long preserved virginity.'(Line 27-28) He says that his attitude will turn to dust and ‘into ashes all my lust.'(Line 30) This sentence makes the audience more aware of his actual intentions by saying the word ‘lust’ rather than ‘love’, making us believe that he has betrayed his true motives, and slipped up in front of the woman, he is making out he ‘loves’. In the last stanza of ‘To His Coy Mistress’, it sees him almost demand that they make ‘sport’ (love). The imagery on this stanza becomes more erotic, and may have more than one interpretation. ‘Let us roll†¦.up into one ball, and tear our pleasures†¦through the iron gates of life.'(Line 41 and 44) Rolling up into a ball could represent two people making love together or a cannon ball which will smash down, ‘the iron gates of life.’ These gates could represent the woman’s chastity belt or society’s conventions which would frown upon an extramarital affair. The last two lines are similarly ambiguous. They both tie in with lines from the second stanza. ‘Thus, through we cannot make our sun, stand still, yet we will make him run’ (Line 45 – 46), suggests that they should make the most of their time they are spending together, and conceive a child (son). Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, ‘How do I love thee†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ presents quite a contrast to Andrew Marvell’s poem. Its imagery is humble, and very personal. It is an expression of deep love and devotion from one person to another. The purpose of the poem is to quantify the dimensions of her love and at the beginning of the poem, it is very clear to the audience that this woman is deeply in love with her partner By starting with the line, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways'(Line 1) she begins to compare her love to religion and emotions rather than physical attributes, ‘I love thee freely, as men strive for right.’ (Line 7) The imagery she uses to supposedly quantify this love is suggestive of infinity, and a love which has no boundaries, even after the soul is free from the physical body, ‘I shall but love thee after death.’ (Line 14) Constructive descriptions are always used in this poem, compared to Andrew Marvell’s, which also describes the negative issues. Besides Browning’s poem having a very romantic meaning, you could question why the woman needs to prove her love for her partner, because she continually mentions and repeats, ‘I love thee†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ in most of her sentences. She could be indeed counting the ways she loves her partner, however maybe her partner needs reassuring of her love for him. One could argue that, Barrett Browning chose the sonnet form for this poem, for the purposes of contrast; to take something which is supposedly infinitive (her love) and place it in a finite and restricted form (sonnet). Alternatively, people could think different because there are such strict rules governing sonnet writing, (i.e. 10 syllables per line, 14 lines etc) and people might question why she chose such a rigid format, for something which she feels most strongly about. Overall, the two poems are opposites, but they are both concerned with the concept of time, human life and love. At the end of the poem, browning says, ‘if god choose, I shall love thee better after death,'(Line 13-14) showing that even after she dies, her love for this man will continue to grow, loving him for eternity. ‘To His Coy Mistress’, and ‘How Do I Love Thee†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ have many correlations with each other. For example; Both poems are about love; but represent different kinds of love. Andrew Marvell’s poem is about lust and sexual gratification, while Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem is about true love and loyalty. The sonnet is written from a women’s point of view, where she expresses her true love for her husband. The other poem is written from a mature mans point of view, and represemts his lust for a younger women. This poem is an elaborate ‘chat up line’ to present a logical argument in order to persuade her to make love to him. This can show how the significance of a poem can differ because of the century it has been written in. ‘To his coy mistress’, was written in the 1600’s while ‘How do I love thee†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ was written in the 1800’s. The cultural difference between these two periods, is the writing style, as in the 1600’s people were interested in composing clever arguments, and were more interested in writing about sex, lust and passion. Whereas in the 1800’s, the poems written had more true meaning, with a deeper, more romantic feeling. ‘And into ashes all my lust’, compared to, ‘How do I love thee†¦Let me count the ways.’ Many love poems are written in a very traditional format, with very strict rules. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took the challenge to write about something which is supposed to have no limits (love) into something which is restricted (sonnet). On the other hand Andrew Marvell’s poem is all based around ‘carpe diem’, in a non-traditional format, with no strict rules or guide-lines. This can affect the imagery used as one has no limitation to the amount of syllables, lines or stanzas, while the other has a restricted format leaving a certain amount of phrases which can be used. Clearly this means that there are different types of imagery used between the two poems since, ‘How do I love thee†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ uses abstract and emotional imagery, which tends to be highly personal and humble. In some cases you cannot quite put a finger on what she is describing. ‘I love thee to the level of every day, most quite nearby sun and candlelight. (Line 5-6) ‘To His Coy Mistress’, tends to use ostentatious hyperbole and grandiose imagery. He uses big overdone, tacky images, by using phrases such as, ‘times winged chariot’, ‘instant fires’ and ‘iron gates of life.’ You can picture what the man is describing; but on the other hand, you can tell that he might be misleading the audience to make them believe that he is in love with this woman. Throughout the whole of my essay, I have come to the conclusion, that both poems have many comparisons, similarities and differences. They both describe a form of love between two people. In my opinion, the poem I prefer is, ‘To his coy mistress’, because it had more of an effect on me, because of the language used. The man comes across as very desperate, but on the other hand with very good charisma. The imagery used is effective, as I could relate and imagine what he is describing. As well as keeping the audience intrigued on what the women will do next, he leaves the ending on a cliff hanger, by not telling on the final decision the women makes! However, I do not dislike the poem, ‘How do I love thee†¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ because it has appropriate language for the concept she is describing. I just think it is rather tedious describing only the optimistic qualities about a person, for the reason that everybody has faults and pessimistic attributes. Furthermore, I didn’t find it unique or distinctive from other love poems, since the language and imagery was very similar.

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