Bring out the similarities between the Metephysical poets with the extracts from their poems.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In England, during the reign of Charles I, there were two political movements: the Cavaliers and the Puritans. Perhaps not so uniquely, there were two literary movements—most specifically in poetry—of the Cavalier and Metaphysical poets.

They two movements (political and literary) were defined by a Carpe Diem attitude (the Cavaliers) as opposed to a religious ideology (Puritans and Metaphysicals).

...the term “Metaphysical poets” was coined to refer to certain writers, primarily of religious verse.

This is not to say that one had to be a Puritan to be a Metaphysical poet—however, the two groups had the same profound focus in life based on religious themes. This genre of poetry was not a passing phase:

...the term “Metaphysical poets” remained useful to literary historians for more than two hundred years.

But, it should be noted that Metaphysical poets were not always religious in their writing. Some of their poetry was love poetry and similar characteristics can be seen in these poems.There are a number of names associated with Metaphysical poetry. Perhaps the two of the most well-known were John Donne and Andrew Marvell.

Ironically, Donne (who was later known as a devoutly religious man in his later years) started his career writing love sonnets. "The Flea" was written with the express purpose of seducing a woman: the theme of the poem is that if a flea bites a man and a woman, their blood is intermingled and they are as one, so that having sex is not a problem.

It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,

And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.

Donne goes on to say that the flea enjoys a more intimate relationship that he and the woman he is pursuing:

Yet this enjoys before it woo,

And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two;

And this, alas! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,

Where we almost, yea, more than married are.

Here Donne has noted that while the flea has "enjoyed" both of them, Donne has not "enjoyed" the woman he woos.

Andrew Marvell's work may sound like Donne's...

Andrew Marvell, influenced by the work of Ben Jonson and John Donne, was the last major poet with their qualities and habits of mind.

What is so similar between "The Flea" and Marvell's very famous "To His Coy Mistress" is that each presents an argument by the speaker to entice a woman to enter into a sexual relationship with him. The speaker notes that if life were to go on forever, taking their time in their relationship would be no worry:

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

We would sit down and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love's day...

In essence, the author is saying "Life is short," and this is his argument, that they make the best use of their time together.

If time were not an issue...

I would

Love you ten years before the Flood;

And you should, if you please, refuse

Till the conversion of the Jews.

Because life is short, Marvell encourages this woman to join him in sweet love-making. Though they cannot make time stand still, they can "make much of time."

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Both poems intend to woo; rather than religious, they are love poems with the same intent.


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