Donnes’ ‘The Sunne Rising’ is about a pair of lovers in bed being imposed upon by the morning sun. IT is typical of seventeenth century romantic poetry. Donne wrote for an elite circle of well-educated friends and his work sows the control men had over women at the time. Similarly ‘ To his Coy Mistress’ is a seduction poem, very fashionable in that period. Marvell is trying to manipulate a woman into making love with him. He woos her by talking elaborately of all he would do if time allowed and tries to convince her it is ‘no crime.’ However, time is against him and he becomes more forceful in his approach. The lady whose affection he seeks, appears to be reluctant but has very little choice in the matter and she is treated more like property than human.
In comparison ‘ Like a Flame’ depicts a woman commanding the situation. She sees the man and it is her who signifies consent. Nichols uses a contemporary modern style in her poetry, to examine love from a female point of view. The poem is written in Creole, an adaptation of English and the tongue of Nichols and her people. By writing in Creole she has taken away the authority of traditional male poetry and made it her own. In ‘Like a Flame’ has no set stanzas or line length and this helps the poem flow with a Caribbean rhythm adding to the message presented.
Nichols uses poetry as a weapon to express her political and social views and this particular piece shows the oppressed women ‘rising up’ and showing the world that women are more than objects in love. ‘Like a Flame’ has no punctuation and this allows enjambment and ambiguity within the poem. It is not self contained in any way by rhyme or stanzas and this gives freedom to the poem and increases the view of the poet that love is freedom, does not conform to social rules and cannot be controlled. Likewise in ‘The Sunne Rising’ the idea that the lovers follow no rules is shown:
‘ Love, all alike, no season knowes’
Nichols states the black feminist view and the open structure of her poem enables her to do this. It adds strength and meaning to the work as had she used the Queens English and written in a traditional style it would have been almost hypocritical. The Creole backs up her argument as it focuses the message being put across. The traditional set up of the other two poems fits perfectly for them as they state the strictly male superiority of their time.
‘The Sunne Rising’ consists of three stanzas making use of alternate rhyme to add control to the argument with the sun. However, there is also some internal enjambment within thew stanzas showing some freedom in the love. Donnes piece is an argument and the use of hard consonants in the first stanza and flat vowel sounds helps to reinforce this and hold it together. In the second stanza the harsh sounds are replaced with softer long vowel sounds such as:
‘ If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Looke and to morrow late, tell mee.’
Donne also uses repetition of long sounds to soften the tone and express his love: ‘mee’. Unlike Nichols, Donne lived in a male microcosmic world and appears to be reluctant to move with the times; ignoring new scientific revelation, and reverting back to the idea of a geocentric world. The firm structure of the poem exposes clearly the narrow mindedness of men at the time towards women and their view that woman could be controlled.
This view is echoed in ‘ To his Coy mistress.’ The poem is also written in a controlled manner with three distinct stanzas, use of rhyming couplets and each line has four main stresses. The poet is trying to manipulate a woman into bed with him and the set structure helps show his arguments and it them flow in an ordered manner. The three stanzas develop the argument and show each stage as it is formed. Each rhyme is the ending of one view or point in the overall argument.
The couplets also provide a lot of enjambment within the stanzas and in the first stanza this makes the poem flow in a seductive sensual way. This stanza is the ideal situation and what he would do if time allowed. In the final two stanzas the rhyming adds power and effect to the argument. It makes the tine more threatening and sinister and increases the control the poet has over the lady:
‘And your quaint Honour turn to dust:
And into ashes all my lust.’
The second stanza shows the cruel side to the poet and is the stage in the argument where he is expressing the consequences of not acting then and there. The final verse is almost a desperate plea and the answer to the problem. The points are ordered in a logical manner.
In affinity with ‘The Sunne Rising’ Marvell uses hard consonants and short vowel sounds to make the argument tougher and softer longer vowel sounds to seduce and flatter the woman involved.
The overall tone of this poem is suggestive and seductive. It begins with excessive worship and romantic love of the woman, which also conveys a certain falseness, and desire, which is not present in the genuine sensuality of ‘Like a Flame.’ The rhythm pushes the poem on and the tone becomes more aggressive and blunt. The use of such images as the ‘marble vault’ the ‘Grave’ and the ‘worms’ add to the unconventional repulsive and urgent tone, which puts pressure on the woman to do as the man wants. The tone softens again for a passionate final campaign. The final stanza is more sexual and physical than the love and death of the first two. Phrases such as ‘Time devour’ ‘birds of prey’ and ‘Iron gates’ increase the strength of the argument and the position of the man in the situation as the controller.
Similarly ‘Like a Flame’ has very strong sexual undertone and imagery. Nichols uses strong, powerful and passionate words to make the poem more physical and they add hot energy. The sexual image gains from the use of the flowing Creole dialect. The image of meeting him ‘like a flame’ is a sensual, dangerous and hot one. The physical aspect is shown by the lines:
‘his hands soft his words quick his lips’
and they also make the poem more erotic. It is not only the danger of love itself but the danger of being caught that is implied within the poem. The silent agreement of ‘ I nod,’ and the fact that they meet at night reinforce the danger of love. The flame represents their love and it brings light. The heat from the flame makes scene more sexual. The flame also represents the freedom of the woman.
‘Raising up /from my weeding/ of ripening cane’
shows at face value a woman standing up from working in the fields. On another level it shows the woman standing up for her rights as a woman to control. The ‘ripening can’ is the social view and as it is ‘ripening’ it is shown to be developing and the role of women in society and the day of them being domineered over is changing. The ‘weeding’ suggests that she has been tending the cause to aid it to grow properly. There is a strong use of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and it gives the poem female authority.
In ‘The Sunne Rising’ the tone is tense at first and implies that the poet is annoyed at being watched by the morning sun. As the poem moves on the tone becomes more relaxed and romantic. Unlike the other two poems there are not a lot of sexual references but the love is more romantic. The romance is not aggressive as in ” To his Coy Mistress’ but is more dreamy and sincere. However like ‘To his Coy Mistress’ the poet still sees himself as superior.
‘She is all states, and all Princes, I,’ implies that woman can be governed. This is very different from the equality and lack of pressure in ‘ Like a Flame.’
Donne plays with scientific ideas such as ‘alchimie’ and exploration. He draws on his knowledge to create rich, warm imagery such as the Indian spices, talk of kings and ‘reverend and strong’ beams. By using these love is made to appear the most special thing in the world and increases the bright, warm image of the sun. Donnes personification of the sun as a voyeuristic old man is used an aid to express his love by winning and argument for her. Donne uses this to impress the woman however as he is arguing with the sun which cannot answer back. The accomplishment is less great that first thought.
Similarly, ‘To his Coy Mistress’ is rich in imagery. It is not as pleasant as Donnes, but it is effective in arguing his point. In the first stanza Marvell is very hyperbolic, using phrases such as ‘Till the Conversion of the Jews’ which will never happen. These hyperboles’ make it more seductive and flattering but they seem somewhat excessive. Marvell uses the organic image of the ‘vegetable,’ which shows his basic uncomplicated love for the woman.
The later imagery is much less romantic and is a perverse way of expressing lust and desire. Darkness and death are obvious images is a distinct contrast to ‘The Sunne Rising’ which is full of light images.
Marvells images put pressure on the lady and he emphasises the effect of not acting now with such words as ‘dust’ ‘ashes’ and ‘grave.’ He also personifies the sun as in ‘The Sunne Rising’ but he uses it to show the movement of time, which is present throughout the poem, aided by the rhyming couplets.
In conclusion, it is obvious from this selection of poems that the view and place of men and women in society has changed greatly. In the seventeenth century men had enormous control over women which is clearly shown in typical poetry of the time. Men would obviously do whatever necessary to get the woman they desired into doing their wish. Nichols ‘Like a Flame’ was written in the twentieth century and expresses the new freedom women have and the equality they have in all matters of life including love. Nichols makes love seem more real and passionate; it is not pure lust and desire but it is not conventional romance. However each poem in its own individual way, expresses that love is passionate. therefore it is the social ideas that change and the style of writing that alters not the way love is between two people.