Andrew Marvell and John Donne Comparison 10/25

With having just read John Donne, a metaphysical poet who was revived in favor by modern era poet T.S Elliot, I think it is interesting we move onto Andrew Maravell, another metaphysical poet claimed by T.S Elliot as one of the finest of the genre.  Better yet, we have poems from each poet discussing the same topic and argument  (one that teenagers have been making since humankind has existed).  So this is too easy of a question not to ask.  Compare and contrast Maravell’s To His Coy Mistress and Donne’s The Flea.   Do we see usage of Metaphysical conceits in both poems?  Is one more effective? Is one’s rhetoric more convincing?   Which one did you like more and why?

15 thoughts on “Andrew Marvell and John Donne Comparison 10/25

  1. In both To His Coy Mistress and The Flea, the lady of the poem is refusing to make love to the narrator. Marvell chooses to speak the his mistress about how fleeting time is, how they should love one another while they can. Donne, however, chooses to speak to his mistress about not killing a flea because it has mingled their blood inside itself. These both can be considered metaphysical due to the common topic of love. I believe Marvell’s poem was much more enjoyable as well as more convincing as it speaks of how he would admire his mistress forever if he only had forever, thus making the argument they don’t have enough time for her to continue being so coy about this matter.

  2. I do agree that both of these two poems are classified as metaphysical conceit because both authors are describing love in different ways. They are not straight out stating the fact that their loved one does not love them back but uses strange examples, which relates to the reader. Both of their lovers refuse to make love to them. Donne uses the idea of the flea to try and convince his lover that it is okay to have premarital sex. Where as Marvell uses the concept of carpe diem with his lover. Marvell does not want to waste time not having sex because there is not much time left on this earth and they should embrace each day. But he tells her over and over again that he would wait forever, if he had forever. Marvell uses a much more romantic tactic in his poem, he is trying to politely convince his coy mistress to love him back. I personally believe that this use of the metaphysical conceit was more effective.

    • “Marvell does not want to waste time not having sex” is a hilarious and also pretty accurate way to describe how the speaker feels in To His Coy Mistress. This poem is metaphysically similar to John Donne’s The Flea in that speaker in both poems use witty, elaborate, and somewhat ironic comparisons to convince their lovers to have sex with them. However, while The Flea was sarcastic, playful, and mainly written in good humor, To His Coy Mistress has a serious, deeper meaning to it – at least deeper than Donne’s, which poses a comical argument in favor of having premarital sex. A few others brought up the notion of carpe diem and like Carey said, “Marvell does not want to waste time not having sex”, but I think Marvell’s main point is to not waste time at all – not just on not having sex. I think its the concept of carpe diem that he really focuses on and in this case the poem becomes a message to the reader, telling him to live life to the fullest and to enjoy it as much as you possibly can. I think Marvell would tell us to live life deliberately and intensely and to never settle for what is second best. He would tell us to keep our minds active and to not let old age hinder our youthful ambitions. So, where The Flea is a poem specifically dedicated to sex, To His Coy Mistress is a poem that uses sex to emphasize the importance of living a deliberately full life. Looking at it that way, I think I enjoyed To His Coy Mistress more because it captures the spirit of life, not just the spirit of physical desire.

      • I agree about “To His Coy Mistress” being more about carpe diem and taking full advantage of time than just sex like “The Flea” was. Marvell directly addresses his mistress, as we can see by the title, in a romantic and inspirational way while still convincing her that her preserved virginity will be useless when she’s dead. By putting this in contrast to “The Flea”, Donne’s poem seems almost more manipulative and argumentative than Marvell’s which really focuses on using aesthetic phrases (example: Now, therefore, while the youthful glew/ Sits on thy skin like morning dew). Personally, I find Marvell’s poem more convincing and effective since Donne’s conceit is way too abstract for me. What also helps is the love and passion more fully expressed in the poem which makes the argument more felt, if that makes sense. It invokes more feelings.

        • As previously written, both poems are definitely metaphorical conceit. I think the reason that most people in this class enjoy Marvell’s poem more is because there is more to relate to. Kristen doest make a good point that the Donne’s poem is very abstract and down to the point. It doest appear in “The Flea” that he is simply trying to sleep with the women. While in Maravell’s poem there is more of an emotional investment. In the end though both men in both poems are trying to sleep with the woman they are pursuing. So I think the question is which one of them do you perceive to be more successful?

  3. Both Donne and Maravell have the same general concept in these two poems. Both narrators are trying to convince a woman to sleep with them. Both devalue the notion of virginity as well. Although each does so differently. Donne takes a very logic based approached utilizing the metaphor of the flea to represent the two people. On the other hand, Maravell, as was said, plays on the notion of carpe diem, that they only have so much time. Donne’s argument appears almost impersonal in comparison to Maravell’s. Maravell continually references the individual in the poem, describing how he would reach her “heart”. Maravell’s poem seems more convincing because it appeals to one’s emotions rather than sense of logic.

    • I agree that because of the emotional power in the writing style that Maravell’s poem is much more influential in its argument. To His Coy Mistress invokes metaphysical content to emphasize the importance if life and subsequentally sex. Maravell discusses nature and the futility of life in his poem which seems abstract compared to The Flea. The Flea too was focused on convincing a loved one to have sex but was more obvious and concrete in writing style and language. To His Coy Mistress is more than sex, it is about enjoying life and all it has to offer.

  4. In both The Flea and In both To His Coy Mistress, the narrator is trying to engage in sexual intercourse with the woman. They do not both go about this in the same way, but they are both trying to reach the same result. In The Flea, the narrator is trying to convince the woman it is okay to have sex with him; however, in In both To His Coy Mistress, the narrator is trying to use almost a scare-tactic. He explains to the woman that they do not have much time in their lives so they should have sex. They are both metaphysical, and both have the same general characteristics. I found In both To His Coy Mistress to be more convincing because the narrator actually has a reason, it may be a stretch, but it is better than the reasoning in The Flea. I enjoyed reading In both To His Coy Mistress for this reason.

    • I completely agree that both The Flea and To His Coy Mistress contain a narrator that is trying to convince a woman to sleep with him, and that the narrator in To His Coy Mistress uses a scaring technique in order to convince the woman. However, I disagree that To His Coy Mistress is more convincing simply because the narrator uses this scaring technique. The narrator in The Flea was persuasive, in my opinion, because the narrator fools the woman into arguing his point for him, thus making her realize what he was trying to say all along. I think that this trickery through the flea makes a more convincing argument because it stresses a point that is physically proven when the woman kills the flea, rather than the argument that life is short and one must seize the day.

  5. In both poems, Maravell and Donne present the element of a metaphysical conceit. The concept of love is the main focus and this is where this metaphysical conceit comes into play. The women in the poems are both in refusal of the love/lust that the man in the poem is trying to convince them of. The difference in these poems is the metaphor- for Donne it is the flea and for Maravell it is the concept of time. I was more drawn to “To His Coy Mistress” because of the way it was written and the tone of the speaker. The speaker shows his love in a more admiring and true way whereas in “The Flea”, the speaker seems to be just trying to get the women to sleep with him and doesn’t stress the actuality of love in the same real way that Maravell does.

    • I agree that both Donne and Marvell use the metaphysical concept and metaphor tactic in both “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress.” However, the tone and the way they go about doing it is very different. In The Flea, Donne takes on a lighter, almost more playful tone when using the flea as a metaphor for “their love.” He just wants his lover to engage him in premarital sex and is using a simple almost meaningless object to do so. In the end, even though he doesn’t end up getting what he wants, he’s not that bothered by it. The tone I get from Marvall’s poem is quite different. Even though he trying to some extent to persuade his lover to be with him physically, he does it in a much less humorous way. By comparing elements of love and death in it, and the references to time and graves and fading beauty, it seems a lot more dramatic and serious.

      • Yes. I agree that both poems definitely have the element of metaphysical conceit to help enhance their plot, and that they are used in different ways. However, the ways in which they are used makes me drawn more so to the opposite poem. I particularly enjoyed the light tone and somewhat shallow desires in “The Flea” in comparison to the more serious tone of “To His Coy Mistress.” The metaphor of the flea in “The Flea” made the poem more enjoyable for me and easier to grasp once I understood what metaphysical conceit was.

  6. I think for a change I want to answer this question more so as just someone being faced with the argument itself and not a student of literature. Sorry for being overly casual and perhaps snarky. As far as which poem do I think is more effective in convincing me that premarital sex is not sinful, I would have to choose The Flea. Personally I find that audiences always respond the reverse psychology and Donne is really successful in this way as far as rhetoric goes. This is not to say that I did not enjoy Maravell and I am certainly not saying that TS Elliot has bad taste in metaphysical poets. However the tone was not really one I related to and preferred the light hearted attitude Donne allowed for with his POV and sarcasm.

  7. In “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” the narrator has one goal in mind, to sleep with a woman. In Donne’s poem however, he takes a more humorous approach and attempts to belittle the actual act of coitus by downplaying it to the insignificance of the blood intertwining in the a flea. In Maravell’s, the narrator takes a more serious approach relies more on fear. He explains that there is not much time, and that they should seize the day. I think that Donne’s poem was a more enjoyable one; just through his use of sarcasm and wit.

  8. Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and John Donne’s “The Flea” are both great examples of metaphysical conceits. As mentioned before, both poems are lamenting about how their significant others won’t have sex with them. “The Flea” uses a flea who has bitten both the author and his love and has their blood intermingled inside of it as a conceit for sex. Their blood has intermingled in the flea…why not go ahead and have sex? “To His Coy Mistress” uses the concept of Carpe Diem to try to convince his significant other to have sex with him. He argues that if they had all the time in the world, he would wait forever for her, but they don’t, so why waste time? Both of these poems are most definitely metaphysical conceits, yet they have completely different tones. “The Flea” is more of a logical argument and more witty, while “To His Coy Mistress” plays more on emotions. Because of that, I prefer Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.”

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