Comparison of How John Donne and Andrew Marvell Present Death in Poems To His Coy Mistress and Holy Sonnet X
In the poems To His Coy Mistress and Holy Sonnet X the idea of death
plays a strong part in the overall messages of the poems. Both poets
use effective but very different methods in order to put forward their
views and/or to make a point about society.
John Donne's poem Holy Sonnet X is very unique Donne uses two main
poetic elements: tone and figurative language. The confident and
defiant tone adds to the speakers triumphant mastery death from a
natural occurrence into a human adversary, capable of being
overthrown. These elements all combine to enhance the theme of the
poem. In contrast Marvell in To His Coy Mistress uses tone, figurative
language and rhythm to give a completely different effect on the
reader. The scornful, jeering manner of Sonnet X is replaced with the
passionate and endearing spirit of an ardent lover. The figurative
language used on the 'coy' mistress stirs the emotions and shocks the
senses of the reader, allowing the increased intensity of the poem as
it progresses to make the poem more effective.
The substantial difference between the two poems with regards to their
approach of death is the influence of how the poets themselves view
death. Donne makes his poem all the more personal by insisting, "nor
yet canst thou kill me". Donne is actually using the poem to express
his own view that death should not be feared, as it has been since the
beginning of time. Donne makes it clear that he is not controlled by
fear of death, as many often are. He states, "though some have called
thee/Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so."
Marvell uses death in an entirely different way to Donne, glorifying
all that it stands for the order to play on the views at the time on
death. Marvell also uses death to symbolise the endâ€¦
"And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust"
The image of ashes best portrays the idea of the end. Once something
had been turned to ash (burned) it can never be reversed to its
previous state. This idea is disturbing and would lurk in the mind of
the reader as Marvell has now introduced a new image of death - ash.
The use of rhythm in the two poems adds to the effectiveness of the
poems. In To His Coy Mistress Marvell uses an eight-syllable iambic
line like many of his other poems such as The Definition of Love.
However, as the poem progresses the vigorousness of the argument
appears in the breathless lines:-
"Through the iron gates of life", for example has only 7 syllables
adding to the effect of urgency at the end of the poem. The use of a
rigid structure would help persuade the mistress as it seems more