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Metaphysical Poetry And The Concept Of 'carpe Diem' Donne's "To His Mistress Going To Bed" And Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"

998 words - 4 pages

The metaphysical poets believed in seizing the day. Discuss with reference to two poemsIn defiance of, and in gesture of confrontation to, a conservative, paternalistic, and religious world, the metaphysical poets John Donne and Andrew Marvell present a new mode of thinking; one not governed by the hope of heaven, but by faith in the flesh. The poetry highlights and reinforces the spontaneity of lust while underscoring the fact of human mortality. Challenge conventions and conservative ideology are common preoccupations of artists and just as Donne champions the libertine ideal in "To His Mistress Going to Bed", so Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" celebrates the metaphysical belief of "Carpe diem" or grasping the day. Both poets see man as a spontaneous and pragmatic being, destined to live one life only and needing to make the most of it. This need to satisfy one's earthly urgings is most clearly expressed by Marvell.In To his Coy Mistress Marvell presents to his lover an argument for lowering her defenses and to give free reign to her desires, while at the same time allowing him to satisfy his own. The poet argues that "coyness" is, in fact, criminal since we are not alive long. The long, drawn-out vowel sounds of the opening stanza - "our long love's day;" - mimics the painful process of his "mistresses" refusal and a series of ironic references underscores his frustration. An allusion to the "conversion of the Jews" foregrounds that her preciousness will go on forever, and among other biblical references becomes a surprising mechanism to persuade her to yield up to him her virginity. In the seventeenth century, we might have expected the opposite! A further technique used to this end is that of the traditional blazon, but again the convention takes on an unconventional twist. Instead of a discreet head-to-toe description, Marvell focuses his attention on his women's breast and nether regions:"An hundred years should go to praiseThine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;Two hundred years to adore each breastBut thirty thousand to the rest…"At the next stanza, Marvell plunges into a metaphysical conceit; that is, a couplet reminding us of our mortality:"And at my back…/…hurrying near."The conditional 'but' serves as a structural and rhetorical 'hinge' in the poem - contrasting indefinite patience and naïve virtue against our march to a certain death. And the very next couplet presents a sobering reminder of the permanence of this:"And yonder…lie/Deserts…eternity."The prospect of death, proposed by Marvell through the metaphor of a "marble vault", is an attempt to convince the woman that her decision to conserve her virginity is a wasteful one. The option is also made distasteful through the phallic reference of worms trying her "long preserv'd virginity". This is where Marvell attempts to highlight the folly of "holding out" and signals the ideal of "Carpe Diem" introduced in the opening...

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