Metaphysical poetry was type of poetry that was very popular during 17th century. Metaphysical actually comes from the Greek words Meta and physical. Meta meaning beyond or after and physical meaning physical. The poets wrote in contrast to the highly stylized Elizabethan Lyric poetry written by poets such as Shakespeare, Spencer and Wyatt. This poetry was quite traditional in terms of subject e. g. love poetry which was joyful, fluent and full of sweetness and melody. In contrast metaphysical poetry was quite rough in terms of sound and rhythm.
Metaphysical poetry comprises several literacy devices such as conceits, and an usually simile or metaphor. A conceit is an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs and entire poem or poetic passage. It is a far fetched idea which is made believable by the logical and powerful way it is argued. I will be comparing ‘The Flea’ by John Donne and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell. Both poems were written in the 17th century, both poems have similar structures as they both have three stanzas therefore I’m going to use the layout to organise my essay.
I will compare each stanza with the same stanza from the other poem. The first poem of the two is called ‘The Flea’ written by John Donne. Donne was born in 1572 and died on March the 31st 1631. He was a Jacobean poet, a metaphysical poet, and a preacher. He was also the representative of the metaphysical poets of the period. His works are notable for their realistic and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems. Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, and satires.
His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and inventiveness of metaphor, compared with that of his contemporaries. He is also famous for his holy sonnets. Donne came from a Roman Catholic family, and so he experienced persecution until his conversation to the Anglican church. The second poem is ‘To His Coy Mistress’ Written by Andrew Marvell, born on the 31st of March 1621 in winstead-in-Halderness East riding of Yorkshire and died on the 16th of August in 1678. He was also a metaphysical poet, and the son of a church of a Church of England Clergyman (also named Andrew Marvell).
As a Metaphysical poet, he is associated with John Donne and George Herbert, he was also a friend and a college of John Miton. His style of poetry was often witty and full of elaborate. Donne begins stanza one of ‘The Flea’ with very forceful language. We see an example of this when he begins the poem with an imperative straight away, telling the lady of the poem to do something, without giving her the option of saying yes or no ‘Marke but this flea, and marke in this’. It’s almost as if he’s making her look at the flea and then make the comparisons between the option for them to have sex together and the flea.
He does this to try and make her see that the choice for them both to have sex together isn’t a major ordeal; he’s basically saying look how small the flea is, that’s how big the decision for us to have sex is. It is a very odd for a love poem to sound and be as direct as this, being very forceful and putting pressure on her for her to say yes. The way he puts forward his argument is very simple but very clever and powerful at the same time. It’s as almost as if he’s a lawyer trying to put forward his case at court. Also in the first stanza the women which he is talking to is not given a voice, however her opinions of sex are very clear.
She thinks sex is a sin unless married, and she is made out to think that if she commits this sin then she would be going against God. During the time of the Elizabethan’s they viewed sex as a mixture of blood and other fluids and in ‘The Flea’ Donne says: ‘Me it suck’d first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee’ He’s basically saying that now the flea has bitten him and bitten her, that inside the flea both their blood is mixed together. The flea is acting almost like a marriage temple and that they have come together inside it.
There is also a codicil at the end of this stanza which is like the summing up of an argument. He stops using forceful language and uses the word ‘wooe’ trying his very hardest to make her fall in love with him. The very last line of the stanza is ‘and this, alas, is more than wee would doe. ‘ He is again reminding her that the flea now has her blood inside of it, and that he has nothing to mark there relationship. Also that the flea has just taken what he wants whereas he should be trying to flatter and woo her. r Both poems have the same theme, of men trying to get their partners into bed.
However they both do this very differently, Donne is pressuring her and using forceful language. He uses charm and wit to persuade her to agree to his wishes, he doesn’t give her compliments, or any form of flattery. Whereas on the other hand, Marvell is very charming and flattering. Throughout the poem he gives her compliments and makes her feel loved, and in my opinion Marvell would be a lot more successful in achieving his aim and having sex as he expresses the fact that he loves her not only that he wants sex, but is he being truthful?
Or being ruthless in the terms that he is willing to say anything to get her into bed. Whereas Donne is trying to sort of manipulate her, and doesn’t show his love or affection for her in any way. The first stanza of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is very similar to Elizabethan Lyric poetry in the sense that Marvell is very flattering, complimentary, and constantly giving her praise. Marvell also exaggerates time throughout the first stanza, and what he would want them to do if they had plenty of it, for example: ‘We would sit down and think which way to walk, and pass out long love’s day’