Okay, so I’ve taken my analysis of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ further by comparing it to ‘Credit for the Card’ and including some wider reading quotes as well from some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This is my first comparison essay of the year and I’m hoping to get some feedback from my teacher soon and then I’ll modify it and post the improved version. This is it so far:
Marvell’s poem of seduction, written in first person, is typical of metaphysical poetry. Marvell was not only a major metaphysical poet himself but was also influenced greatly by similar artists of the Restoration period. ‘To His Coy Mistress’ includes many metaphysical features, such as wit –seen through the tongue in cheek euphemisms- and far-fetched similes, shown in his self-comparison to “amorous birds of prey”, almost an oxymoron in that it conveys two contrasting ideas. Conversely, Hannah’s poem, written three centuries later, is a not a textbook representation of its Post-modern context as it is devoid of humour, irony and is not an example of any elaborate modes, such as metafiction. On top of this, it uses the traditional form of sonnet. It is easy to tell that it is a contemporary poem, however, due to its modern idioms and the pun in the title referring to a “credit card.”
In contrasting ways, both poets hint at the significance of time. The poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’, features Marvell persuading his lover that she should make love with him. He insists that there is not enough time during the span of life to wait around and is determined that they should seize the day, a ‘carpe diem’ philosophy running throughout. The poem is cleverly put together and the structure is predominantly irregular, all stanzas being different lengths, yet rhyming couplets are used throughout, giving the poem a much faster pace and reinforcing the idea that life is short and time goes past quickly, an idea featured in the line “But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”. Enjambment is also used, such as in the lines “I by the tide/ Of Humber” to replicate time moving constantly. Personification of time can be seen, as Marvell claims that “we will make him run.” This presents the idea of a battle between love and time, which Marvell confidently claims can be won through the assertion of “will”. This idea is shared in Sonnet 19, by Shakespeare as he writes, “swift-footed Time” as well as, “old Time”, capitalising the word time and giving it human characteristics so that the reader feels as though time is a rival, or someone in particular to fear. He, like Marvell, hints at a battle between time and love through the final rhyming couplet, “Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong, My love shall in my verse ever live young.” using the traditional idiom of “do thy worst” to give the impression that Shakespeare is daring time and encouraging it to try to ruin him, showing that he doesn’t fear the effects of time. Hannah, on the other hand, does not personify love and indeed does not indicate that time is to be feared and is running out. However, she does, like Marvell and Shakespeare, hint that time is precious, especially in love. Her sonnet depicts a love triangle and expresses her anger towards her love rival after she falsely pretends that Hannah’s “unsigned” Valentine’s Card is from her. Hannah shows how the time that you give somebody is important and obviously feels that she deserves the affection of the man whom she directs the poem at. She writes, in a tone of outcry “after all the time I spent”, the verb of “spent” giving the impression that she has consumed the time that she used to buy the Valentine’s card, as if it is gone and she can never get it back, adding to the feeling of injustice surrounding the situation. She explains how she was “choosing and writing” utilising long vowel sounds in “choosing” to emphasise how she deliberated for a painstakingly long time over the choice of card, showing how much she respects her love. This contrasts with sibilance used in the line, “its significant had slipped her mind” which is almost onomatopoeic in that sounds quick and rushed, highlighting that Hannah’s rival does not put time or effort into her relationship.
Both poems depict a specific feeling of the poets’, towards a woman that they know. Hannah’s sonnet voices her anger towards the girl who pretended that the Valentine’s card that she bought was from her. She immediately subverts the conventions of a sonnet through the lack of affection described, and this is effective as by doing so, it emphasises and highlights her outrage and cold fury. She uses language which paints her rival as scheming and evil, such as in the line “She has conspired to keep you in the dark”, where the verb “conspired” evokes the image of a cold and devious villain. The modern idiom used of “keep you in the dark” also works to show how she is hiding something important, the dark connotations again describing her as the nemesis in the story, setting the reader up to dislike her. Her blatant outrage can be felt in the rhetorical question which begins “How dare she” giving the impression that she cannot comprehend how someone could do something so sly. Marvell, on the other hand, expresses feelings of lust and desire towards his “mistress”. He does this by using euphemisms such as “my vegetable love should grow”, alluding to a love that could carry on growing forever, but also including phallic connotations. This can also be seen in the lines “but thirty thousand to the rest”, subtly referring to his mistress’ private regions and showing the reader how much he desires her for solely sexual reasons. There is also a very mocking tone in the last couplet of the second stanza: “The grave’s a fine and private place But none, I think, do there embrace.” The words “I think” give a scathing and derisive edge to the tone, highlighting Marvell’s lack of respect towards her, showing that he thinks of her as lower than himself, much like in Hannah’s sonnet. In this way, both poems contrast startlingly to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, in which he depicts how he adores, even worships his lover, shown in the lines “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” using a rhetorical question to give the impression that he is reflecting thoughtfully on his lover’s beauty, the image of summer used, as it has been traditionally, to show how Shakespeare thinks of his mistress as warm and bright, a pleasant image evoked in the reader’s mind. Shakespeare uses one quatrain to claim that summer’s beauty is transient and passes in time, however stating in the subsequent quatrain “But thy eternal summer shall not fade”, conveying a sense of confidence in this statement through the assertion of “shall”, the adjective “eternal” putting across a sense of Shakespeare’s everlasting love, even after death. This method of separating different concepts into each quatrain is a structural technique commonly used by Shakespeare in order to make ideas flow in a certain order, making it more comprehensible to the reader. Marvell clearly shows the reader how he feels he has ownership over his “Mistress” through referring to the both of them throughout the poem using the collective pronoun of “we”. This takes away the woman’s individuality and automatically ties her to him at all times, putting across a sense of Marvell’s dominance. This contrasts greatly with “Credit for the card”, in which Hannah writes “you are hers and not mine” using possessive pronouns of “hers” and “mines” to allude to her male love in order to show how he becomes part of the woman when they become lovers. This contrast highlights the change in position of women in the two differing periods, the first emphasising how all women are dominated and effectively owned by men and the second showing that in this post-modern world it is possible for a man to be possessed by a woman. This is mainly down to feminist movements which occurred throughout the 20th century, such as Women’s Social and Political Union’s battling for the women’s right to vote, a battle which they eventually won in 1928.
It is clear on reading both poems that each author has an aim and a reason for writing them. In “To His Coy Mistress”, Marvell clearly intends to seduce his Mistress and persuade her to make love to him. There are three stanzas and each of them has been used to convey a different message which presents a syllogistic argument to the reader, in order to put across the idea that there can only be one logical answer to the debate, making it a very effective method of persuasion. The first stanza involves Marvell flattering his lover and claiming that if he had all the time in the world, he would wait for her and adore her forever. This is done effectively to woo and soften the reader, adding to the effect of persuasion. It is mostly in the conditional tense, using words such as “would” and “should” to convey a sense of “if only”. This section of the poem is also characterised by hyperbolic language as he professes that “An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes”, emphasising and exaggerating how much he loves her. The reader can tell that the love falsely professed, however, through the overly colourful, almost counterfeit, images evoked by mentioning the “Indian Ganges” and “Rubies”, which would have seemed even more exotic during the 17th century, when it was written. The second stanza changes direction completely with the discourse marker “But” and features Marvell using scare tactics to persuade instead, painting the image of what will be the consequences of her refusing to make love to him. He morbidly mentions death, and refers to it as the “deserts of vast eternity”, using the combination of endless space and time to give a barren, bleak image of the afterlife. Graphic imagery in the line “worms shall try/ That long preserved virginity” is used to scare and disgust the reader, hopefully repulsing his Mistress to the extent that she will run into his arms. The third stanza, however, is a return to the colourful, rich language of the first and acts as a conclusion to the argument, presenting, in short, what she should do. He incorporates traditional, clichéd images of “morning dew” and “instant fire”, symbols of love that have always been used throughout time, to entice the reader yet again. Overall this works to move the reader into submission, whereas Hannah endeavours to threaten the reader. She treats the poem as a confession to the secret that the Valentine’s card was actually from her. The opening line of “She took the credit for the card I sent.” has a dismissive and bitter tone and bluntly refers to what happened, as if telling someone gossip. The verb “took” again has negative connotations and makes it seem as though the rival cruelly snatched it or plotted to steal it from her. This feeling is backed up by author’s refusal to name the girl in question, referring to her throughout the poem as “she”. By failing to include any specific description or name of the rival, she makes her appear faceless and the reader cannot sympathise with her. The sonnet uses an alternate rhyme scheme, and, in the traditional way, ends with a rhyming couplet which gives the final lines- “Her lips are sealed. She lied and she forgot/ Valentine’s Day. I didn’t. Mine are not.” -more marked effect. These lines are made clipped and sharp by the short sentence structure which conveys her anger over what happened and makes the reader imagine the narrator saying the words through clenched teeth. The repetition of “she” in the couplet has a listing effect and builds up an overemphasised picture of all the crimes which the rival committed against the narrator. The final sentences of “I didn’t. Mine are not.” sounds like an impending threat, impacted by the blunt shortness of them. By saying she hasn’t forgotten what happened, Hannah is giving the impression that she has deliberated over the issue for a long time and become more and more agitated by it, making the reader fear the actions of the narrator and effectively becoming a threat, which is its aim.
To conclude, the poems, due to their contrasting contextual backgrounds, can be said to be very different. However, it is true that both poems are used to voice the poets’ frustration over a certain issue, and this makes them similar in ways. Hannah writes of her feeling of injustice surrounding the love triangle she finds herself in, and her love rival’s undue actions. Marvell, on the other hand, is frustrated towards his Mistress’ modesty, which he feels under the circumstances, is a “crime.”
I think one of my challenges to overcome this year will be cutting down on my word count, I really tend to want to include every single point I can come up with and it ends up being an intangible, incomprehensible mess every time. I had the same problem last year and I had to be really strict with myself nearing the exam period in fear that I would run out of time after the introduction. Gah. Some of my sentences are also a bit nonsensical because I seem to have a phobia of actually ending them and beginning new ideas in a separate sentence.