March 17

Compare and contrast the tone of the poems between each author. What are some prevailing themes and how is nature depicted in both positive and negative ways in certain poems?

9 thoughts on “March 17

  1. All of the poets that we read for Thursday (Donne, Herbert, Wroth, and Phillips) seem to have the theme or at least talk somewhat about God, Love, and Death but kind of have one of these being the most important or prevalent in their poems. Donne seems to talk a lot about Love and Death, but fixates mostly upon Death. Herbert’s poems are mostly filled with words of God. Wroth and Phillips both talk a lot about love, which is the main theme present in Wroth’s poems, but Phillips are a lot about love as in friendship, or love for her child. Nature is depicted in positive and negative ways throughout these numerous poems. In Donne’s “The Flea,” he seems to depict Nature in an at least slightly negative way because he talks about how the flea sucks blood from him and some woman and how eventually the flea dies and ultimately takes the life from this woman of whom he speaks. Then in Phillip’s poem to her son who died, she talks about things like “plucking a rosebud” and it falling so she is alluding to the part of Nature that is associated with death which isn’t really a positive thing. In Herbert’s “The Flower,” he talks about Nature in a positive way, saying things like flowers not withering and spring showers, growing and budding, which all have positive connotations. He also says “I once more smell the dew and rain, and relish versing,” saying that Nature helps him write his poems.

  2. All four of the poets seem to have some regretful tones in their poems with themes that focus on God, faith, or love. Most of them seem to be sending messages of what they would have done if they could go back, like in Phillips’ poem “A Married State” or what they wish was happening to them currently, like in Herbert’s poem “Affliction (1)”. While Herbert and Donne focus more on their faith to God, their Lord, the poems of Phillips and Wroth focus more on love. The tones actually seem quite pained in most of the poems, as the poets are writing about their struggles in their lives and the bad things that have befallen them. While Herbert’s “Affliction (1)” actually ends on a persevering note, Phillips’ “A Married State” seems mainly negative and serves as a warning to those who dare follow in her footsteps as a wife. As far as nature, most of the poems contain references to it in some ways. For example, in Herbert’s “Affliction (1)” he expresses his desire to be a tree and uses nature to emphasize the shortcomings of his life and the things he wishes he could have done. Donne’s “Hymn to God My God, in My Sickness” references his body as a map and uses nature to identify different phases of his life that, when put into perspective, are one with resurrection just as they are one with death. Also, Wroth’s Sonnet 6 uses sand to represent the things in her life that are dragging her down, namely love, and how it creates a cycle of sinking no matter how hard she struggles to escape it.

  3. All of these poets seem interested in several key themes – love, death, nature, religion – though each poet explores these themes in different manners. Donne characterizes love with religious motifs, with Christian allusions or metaphors to help characterize an otherwise classic view on love. However, Donne can also contradict past viewpoints completely, characterizing things in nature, like the sun, what’s normally seen as good, a source of warmth and life, into something harsh irritating. “Busy old fool, unruly Sun / Why dost thou thus, / Through windows, and through curtains call on us?” (Donne 827).
    Herbert on the other hand writes majorly about Christianity and his faith, in works that are often times very reverential. His thoughts on religion, always elegant and expertly crafted, stick to a very organized structure used in many other poems on the subject. However, occasionally he will format the organized, classical types of poems as concrete poems, using the body of text to create a picture of that which he’s writing about, like in “The Alter” and “Easter Wings.”
    In Wroth’s case, her writings, usually on love, are very cynical and negative. She often portrays herself as being “used” by love, and, despite her best efforts to save herself from this suffering, its allure still brings her right back in a form of self perpetuating agony. This is established by her biting word choice, and especially by her personification of love, which in her first poem is especially malignant. “Dear son, now shoot said she: thus must we win; / He her obeyed, and martyred my poor heart, / I, waking hoped as dreams it would depart / Yet since: O me: a lover I have been.” (Wroth 852).
    Finally, Philips’ poetry is unique in its interpretation of love. Most poetry focuses on the bond between lovers, but Philips deliberately writes her poems about the bonds between friendship, even mentioning that these are far stronger. “A married state affords but little ease / The best of husbands are so hard to please……A virgin state is crowned with much content; / It’s always happy as it’s innocent.” (Philips 892).

  4. All of the poets address love and religion frequently, some more often than others. For example Donne, Worth, and Philips talk about love more directly and frequently than Herbert. While Herbert is more traditionally Christian and blunt in his discussions of faith as opposed to Donne who does use Christian imagery but also sort of combines nature and religion. I thought that Donne and Worth had the most in common, with the intermingling of love and religion in their work, as well as the most interesting depictions of nature. Both show a clear admiration for nature and an understanding of the beauty and power of it through poems like Donne’s “The Flea” which highlights the physical impact and metaphorical qualities of a minuscule animal and Worth’s Sonnet 13 which puts the chameleon on a pedestal and admires it for its ability to survive long periods without food and in harsh conditions.

  5. Each of the four poets incorporates themes of love and devotion into their poems. Donne is devoted to his love, but he also has a very introspective and passionate tone. Another of his central themes is death, as he questions the world and the forces that rule him. Herbert is overwhelmingly pious, and his faith and devotion to God is the main focus of his poems. In his poem “The Altar,” he states “…my hard heart meets in this frame, to praise thy name” (10-12). His direct tone makes his dedication to God very clear. Wroth and Phillips both focus more on the themes of love. Wroth speaks very fervently of the pain and heartbreak that love has brought her. In the line “My pain… seeks for some ease, yet cannot passage find” is a very blunt lament of the damage that love has caused her (1-2). Phillips, on the other hand, talks about the value of platonic love. After having been through heartbreak herself (the death of a child, for instance), she has found solace in friendship. Diverse views of nature are presented among the four poets. Phillips describes “From smoke or hurt those flames are free, from grossness or mortality” (17-18). She sees nature as being a force that is immune to human forces, above us mere mortals. Donne held a similar, positive view of nature, calling the sun both “unruly,” “strong,” and says that “thou art everywhere.” (1, 11, 29). Donne sees the pervasion of nature and reveres its power. Herbert, on the other hand, views nature in conjunction with religion. He sees religion and God’s truth as the axiom around which the world and its forces revolve.

  6. The tone of each poet seems to be very dark and in a way depressing. At least one poem from each poet appears to express tears or having “miserable fate.” Donne uses unusual metaphors to compare feelings such as love. He focuses mainly on love. Herbert’s tone appears to be on a more simpler playing field. He is very straight to the point and easy to follow. Philip’s tone is about companionship. She writes/ talks a lot about marriage, friendships, and children. Wroth explores the deep part of passion. Nature is used in the themes to help convert comparisons.

  7. All four of the poets have similar themes that convey ideas of God, love, death and nature. Although they each very in the frequency of each topic. It is seen that Done and Worth convey the theme of love stronger than Herbert does. Herbert focuses on God and religion, while Donne couples the themes of religion with nature. Herbert’s extreme religious dedication can be seen in his poem “The Altar” and “Easter Wings”. While Done, Worth and Philip all similarly show themes of love all three differ from one another. Worth’s are negative and shows love as a facilitator of suffering and agony that she faces. Philip’s concentrate more on the love present as an element of friendship. And Donne intermingles religion with aspects of nature.

  8. As mentioned in previous comments, the authors’ main focuses seem to be on their faith/God and love. Donne’s tones throughout his poems are intense and vivid with description, seen in sadness in “A Valediction: of Weeping” with lines like “my heaven dissolved so” (18) and in love in “The Bait” with “I need not their light, having thee.” (16). Herbert mainly speaks of God, although his tone often ends depressed as seen in “Affliction” or ends with the Lord in worship, such as in “The Collar”. It seems that Wroth’s tone is rooted mainly in the pain that love has caused her and her struggle to enjoy things the Lord has put on Earth. Her tone differs in “Railing Rhymes”, where it is fired up and passionately defendant in response to Lord Denny’s attack. Philips focuses on love within relationships mainly, with a depressed or unhappy tone due to her son’s death and her unhappiness in her life.

  9. I noticed they all use references to the bible as well as the court. All of the writers seem to not only talk about themselves and what was going on in their life but what was occurring in the court. For example Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania offending a few people of the court including Sir William Denny to the point he called her a hermaphrodite. In result she responded with Railing Rhyme, virtually calling him an idiot. Lady Mary Wroth contrast on a broader scale compared to John Donne and George Herbert. While she did refer to bible verses the latter two explored a more spiritual level and causes and effects of nature as well as emotion. John focused on dramatizing his poems of the spiritual realm with Holy Sonnet (it made sense since he often preached these works and would not be that captivating if he took a plain approach) in comparison to Herbert who was more focused on simply stating the emotion and concise depiction of those emotions within the text. For example, Herbert’s approach in Affliction.

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