19 February 2011

Marvell and women

Not long ago, I wrote a bit about John Donne. Next, it was Herbert´s turn. This time I feel obliged to write a few lines about Marvell and the reason is simply because the three of them belong to the so-called metaphysical poets that abounded in England back in the 17th century.

Although Marvell was not a Puritan , he was Milton´s friend. Books say that Milton wrote a great recommendation for the post of Assistant Latin Secretary for Marvell. They must have been bossom friends because there are quite a few critics who agree on the fact that Marvell pulled the strings so that Milton´s head would not end up in a basket  at a time when Charles II would have been very happy to do so.

Among the very many poems he wrote about women and the feminine gender, there are two that I´d like to mention: "To his Coy Mistress" and "The Definition of Love". I have chosen these two because they are very different in their content and approach. If in the first one the speaker tries to get a girl´s love  because life is short and there is no time to waste, in the second one he explains love in geometric terms; he uses very specific vocabulary such as lines, angles, parallel lines and the lovers are opposite poles.

Certainly,  two different approaches to deal with the same issue.

To his coy mistress

[...]
For Lady you deserve this State;
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I alwaies hear
Times winged Charriot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lye
Desarts of vast Eternity.
Thy Beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble Vault, shall sound
My ecchoing Song: then Worms shall try
That long preserv'd Virginity:

The Definition of Love

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

9 February 2011

Herbert vs. Donne

If my previous entry was about Donne, one of the most popular metaphysical poets, today I´ll be writing a few lines about George Herbert, an Anglican priest whose verses have always been related to the same type of poetry. 

Even though both poets use similar features such as an ingenious use of metaphysical conceits and constant references to the soul and to the body, perhaps one of the most interesting differences between Donne and Herbert is the way they write about love. Donne´s direct references to tangible love and sex contrast with the psychological and metaphysical analysis Herbert does about the same issue. 

In the poem below, the love between God and us is depicted as a heavenly feast in which humans are invited to eat, as in the Holy Communion.More to the point, such love is personified in God, who is defined in the Bible as "love" (1 John 4:8) and who seems to be  the "guest" in Herbert´s poem.


               Love III
            by George Herbert (1593-1633)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.
A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

1 February 2011

To his mistress going to bed

Reading John Donne is always a pleasure. Most of his poems make me laugh, especially those related to sex and sensual pleasure. I would have never thought of describing a woman´s body the way he does. The naked female body becomes his "America, [his] new found land", "[a] kingdom" that has to be discovered, investigated, searched in detail.

Donne, perhaps the most popular of the so-called metaphysical poets, was an expert at making metaphysical conceits, comparisons, unusual similes or metaphores which are more ingenious that either true or appropriate. The images of a naked female body and the discovery of a new continent are strong enough to stay in the minds of Donne´s readers. 
He seems to have lived his sexuality to the full :)   


by John Donne (1572-1631)

[...]
O my America, my new found land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blessed am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness, all joys are due to thee
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys.
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