Compare and contrast Andrew Marvell's poem "The Definition of Love" with John Donne's poem "The Canonization."

1 Answer | Add Yours

tinicraw's profile pic

tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Both Marvell and Donne discuss the topic of Love in each one of their poems "The Definition of Love" and "The Canonization" respectively. Each is in love with a woman who probably shouldn't be with him because of outside social circumstances or just because others simply disagree and tell them that they should not be in love. Here is where the two poems differ: Marvell listens to society and Donne does not. Marvell accepts his fate as a distant admirer and Donne tells everyone else that not only is he going to love this woman, but this love should be (or is) canonized like scripture. That is, love should be held sacred and holy like a church or a saint, so everyone should just mind their own business. Marvell, on the other hand, blames fate for his love springing up from a despairing state; and then, he compares his love to existing as parts of a gate and being separate by other elements of the gate. His love runs parallel to her life and therefore can never meet and be realized. Marvell so aptly says it in the 7th stanza of the poem:

As Lines so Loves Oblique may well
Themselves in every Angle greet:
But ours so truly Parallel,
Though infinite can never meet.

However, Donne refuses to accept this fate and says in his second stanza:

Alas, alas, who's injur'd by my love?
What merchant's ships have my sighs drown'd?
Who says my tears have overflow'd his ground?
When did my colds a forward spring remove?
When did the heats which my veins fill
Add one more to the plaguy bill?
Soldiers find wars, and lawyers find out still
Litigious men, which quarrels move,
Though she and I do love.

Basically, I'm not hurting anyone by loving, so I'm going to do what I want to do.


We’ve answered 317,813 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question