What are the similarities and differences between Edge Allen Poe's "Annabel Lee" and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"?

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bree1228 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These two pieces of poetry have both similarities and differences. Edgar Allan Poe wrote "Annabel Lee" as a speaker's tribute to his dead lover, whereas Andrew Marvel's speaker in "To His Coy Mistress," was written to seduce a living lover.  In essence, the poems themes are quite different, yet there is a host of similar diction and literary device. 

In "Annabel Lee," the speaker mourns the loss of his beloved, yet uses words and phrases that we can certainly compare to "To His Coy Mistress." The speaker in "To His Coy Mistress," is essentially doing his very best to seduce his shy lady into the loss of her innocence. By using such phrases as in lines 27-30, ("...then worms shall try) (That long-preserved virginity:) (And your quaint honor turn to dust,) (And into ashes all my lust.)" It is fairly apparent to the reader that though in the beginning of the poem, the speaker tries to sweeten his lover up with lofty talk of romance, that really, time is fleeting. Basically, she better hurry up and give into his sexual whims, or risk them both dying an untimely death (however improbable).  The speaker's diction mirror's that of Poe in "Annabel Lee," though only in the sense that the speaker in "Annabel Lee," is in terrible torment of a lost love.  This can be seen in lines 10-11, as the speaker says, "(..With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven) (oveted her and me...," implying that their love was beyond all measure.  Both speakers endeavor to "honor" their ladies with images of death and heaven.  Marvel uses similar tactics in his poem in order to convey that urgency of time for he and his mistress, as can be evidenced in lines 37-40, ("Now let us sport us while me may;) ( And now, like amorous birds of prey,) (Rather at once our time devour,) (Than languish in his slow-chapt power.")  In other words, let's hurry up, because death, masquerading as a bird of prey, will devour them both, leaving them unable to consummate their love.  The obvious differences and similarities, as mentioned in the first paragraph, are that Poe uses similar "divine" diction in order to express his feelings to the reader, as does Marvel, only his lover is still alive.  Whether Marvel's lady is in luck or peril, depends on how you look at what the speaker in Marvel's poem is trying to accomplish, which can be interpreted as a certain death resulting from the lady's loss of virtue.

The main difference here lies in the fact that Poe goes to great lengths to immortalize the love between the speaker and Annabel Lee, whereas Marvel goes to the same great lengths to entice his young, shy lover into losing her virginity.  Through this use of diction from both poets, the literary device of metaphor is also used.  They both use the metaphor of heavenly grace of the angels, or in Marvel's case, the more extreme grim side of death, in order to prove their desired points.