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English Literature Poetry Essay

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The 27th verse of the Genesis states, “So God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” From that day forth, physiological attraction between male and female became the axis around which their relation revolves. Physiological attraction is expressed through romance, passion, and seduction. The world literature presents endless works of different writers from the various parts of the world related to romance, passion, and seduction. John Donne and Andrew Marvell, two English poets of 16th and 17th century, belong to these writers. Donne’s poem “The Flea” and Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” are vivid examples that explain men’s passion and seduction with respect to women. Donne and Marvell who are considered as metaphysical poets use conceptual and abstract ideas to describe passion in their poems “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress.”

Plots and monologues of two poems portray that passion and seduction under the disguise of admiration expressed in a soothing tone; it is perhaps a proper tool to conquer women's hearts and bodies. 

No one can argue that physical union is the ultimate culmination point of a romance; it is the driving force that works as catalysis in establishing the romantic relationship between men and women. Both poets, using classical tools of drama, portray this in their poems. This force is the theme of two poems, which is used to develop their plots and monologues. Both plots describe restless passion of two desperate lovers who are trying to persuade their women to satisfy them sexually. In both poems, passion is expressed through persuasion in which a man is trying to convince a woman to have sexual relationship with him. Donne describes it in the line, “Just so much honour, when thou yield’st me," and Marvell describes it in lines, “The beauty shall no more be found; / Now therefore, while the youthful hue.” Both male characters aim to seduce their lovers to have premarital intimate union but are challenged by their resistance. Each poet is using distinctly different approaches to seducing their women.

No doubt, success in this case depends on the approach. The plot of the drama in each poem describes the approach used by each poet. The male character of the poem “The Flea” starts seduction using aggressive and whimsical manner while the male character of the poem “To His Coy Mistress” uses a romantic and passionate tone. Both men start blaming their lovers for denying their advances through refusal. Donne opens the first stanza in a bizarre tone, “Mark but this flea, and mark in this, / How little that which thou deniest me is." Marvell, on the other hand, opens the first stanza in a romantic and passionate tone, “Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, Lady, were no crime.” The poems describe two different strategies adopted by two different men. In Marvel’s poem, the man does not press the woman; “We would sit down and think which way / To talk and pass our long love’s day”; the man says that his love is eternal, and her resistance at this moment is not an issue. However, Donne uses a strategy that can be compared to pushing someone against the wall. Donne gets more absurd as the plot develops and pace gets faster; the man uses complex and argumentative approach to convince the woman. He says that the Flea is able to mingle their bloods, and it does it without wooing her, which does not become sin or shame for her. She lets the Flea do a lot more than she is allowing him to do. Donne states, “And this, alas! Is more than we would do.” Marvel takes a different approach; the man tells the woman that he does not mind to wait as long as it takes. Furthermore, the man describes his love within the vastness of the world that passes through “Ganges” and “Humber,” within the vastness of time that passes through Biblical flood and conversion of Jew. He expresses how he would adore each part of her body being in the vastness of this world and time. This approach can be described as seduction through admiration. Marvell undoubtedly reaches the peak of admiration in lines, “A hundred years should go to praise / Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest.”

Both Donne and Marvel choose moral pressing as a method of seduction.  However, unlike Donne, Marvell does not use die-hard moral pressing. In the second stanza, Donne begs to spare the life of the Flea; he even adopts the Christian concept of “three lives in one.” In the real sense, the poet is not urging to save the Flea’s life. The man is rather forcing the woman to accept that they already crossed the border of spiritual ritual of marriage with the help of Flea, so there is no harm in going to the next step – physical union of two bodies.  Donne, in this case, uses a reversal argument that he expresses through restless passion. Marvel in his moral pressing uses reality of time and mortality while maintaining a loving and soothing tone. The man in the Marvell’s poem informs his woman that the death is a dessert of vast eternity and physical beauty is lost in that eternity; moreover only worms in that eternity can find her long preserved virginity. Now, it is she who is going to decide whether to offer her virginity to worms or him.   

The monologues of both poems do not disclose if any of these two men succeeded in their efforts; this question remains unanswered. However, the last stanzas of both poems illustrate the desperate culmination of seduction. Killing of the flea symbolizes the woman’s refusal; Donne’s seduction approach falls apart. The poet then uses the opposite logic for seduction. He explains that it is the fear that causes refusal; however, the killing has shown that the fear is false, and she does not lose any honor. He further uses seduction in the form of passion, “Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me, / Will waste, as the flea’s death took life from thee.” Marvell in culmination states that humans are powerless in the face of time; it will swallow human beings. Marvell calls the woman for active submission, “Let us roll our strength and all / our sweetness up into one ball.” Donne ends the poem with a phrase that explicitly refers to sex; however, Marvell avoids it. He ends the poem by reminding the woman that “time” does not wait (“We cannot make our sun / Stand still”) for lovers and give a chance for their union; but the lovers can push through time in their passionate love (“yet we will make him run”).

Both poems were written over 400 years from now, but they illustrate basic instinct of men and women, which also remains true nowadays. Though premarital sex is not a subject of poetry of our days, certain approaches to winning woman’s soul and body do not change with the time. I believe that women like to hear admiration before submitting to their lovers. I hold the opinion that from this perspective Marvell is more likely to succeed in the seduction of the women.   

 

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