“Choose three poems from the pre-1900 section of your anthology in which the poets present powerful feelings and emotions. Compare the poems showing how the poet uses language to produce these effects” For my three poems I have chosen to do two by John Keats, ‘To Autumn’ and ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell. In the two Keats poems there is ample description to write about, whereas in the Marvell poem, there is still description, but the themes and aspects contrast greatly with the seriousness of Keats.
In ‘To Autumn’ Keats is expressing his feelings towards autumn. He does this, not as if it were a season, but as if it was a person. This knowledge is first gained in the title, as it is being addressed to autumn, this immediately personifies it and gives the reader instant knowledge that this poem will be more than description about the season and is showing the fact that Keats has feelings and emotions connected with it. ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is a poem in which Keats, taking on the role of his character, is describing events that happened to him in which his emotions were tossed around and played with. Finally, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a poem written by Marvell to amuse his friends, but in which he shows his feelings for a woman. Though she does not exist, he has described their conversation as if it actually happened.
In ‘To Autumn’, time plays a very important factor. Keats brings up the point that the season autumn is just part of an endless yearly cycle and that life is also part of this cycle. He illustrates this by having the image of the “maturing sun”, this gives the feeling that time is slowly passing and that every year the sun is born in spring and dies in winter. The emotions encapsulated in this is that Keats is trying to console the sorrowful autumn which is sad as it is dying, he even brings in images of death with “sort-dying”, “mourn” and “dies”.
This is again referring back to the theme of time and the fact that it will eventually end. The indication that Keats is sad about that is indicated by the adjective “wailful”, which is used when death and sadness are present, indicating that he feels strongly about the fact that autumn, the sun and time are dying slowly. Time is also a main theme in ‘To His Coy Mistress’. Marvell is creating the images that if he had all the time in the world, how much he would spend it just looking at her
“An age at least to every part” This shows that he wishes time can never end and that he will never grow old and neither will his mistress. He really wants this to happen and feels very strongly about it as, “Nor would I love at a lower rate” indicates. He then creates a fantastic metaphor with the line “Deserts of vast eternity” This is brilliant when interpreting his feelings. He uses the adjective “vast” which creates an image of an enormous object, it is also very onomatopoeic which means that it sounds like what it means, and it is said slowly which increases the effect of it.
The context that it’s in is of time but it is also describing his love and affection for his mistress and that it is absolutely huge. Marvell also creates images of death and that what he and his mistress will eventually end and the time they wasted can never be regained, he does this by using the words “vault”, “ashes” and “grave”. He is increasing the feeling of his love in that he is trying to cram as much of it as possible into the time that they have but even that will not be enough and they will regret this when they are both dead.
In ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ an incredibly beautiful woman seduces a knight. Keats indicates the feelings that the knight has feelings for the woman by using words, which are traditionally used with love and affection. Examples are “garland”, “fragrant” and “sweet”, though these words are not linked directly with love but they are associated with it and courting, which is what the knight and his lady are doing as they have just met. ‘To His Coy Mistress’ also contains similar references with “song”, “sweetness” and “pleasure”. Keats in his poem gives the impression that the relationship between the knight and the lady is very unruly as the adjective “wild” is repeated three times.
It is also taking place in an undignified place, “elfin grot”; this does not quell the feelings that Keats is still expressing for the lady and the beauty that he is describing is still evident. Throughout ‘To His Coy Mistress’ feelings of love are expressed blatantly and more subtly, as “love”, “heart”, “lust” and “pleasures”. As well as having these indicators throughout the poem Marvell uses phrases and metaphors such as
“…while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew”
“My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow”
The iambic rhythm increases the effect of his words by having the compliments come in a regular torrent, further helping him get across his feelings more easily.
‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is about the supernatural. This is indicated within the tone of the poem and also the words that are included within the poem. The tone of it is very dreamlike and it portrays an absence of time. Keats creating the image that the knight is in contact with people beyond the grave, gives the lack of time. Also the reader builds up a picture that the woman is not entirely human as she takes him to her “elfin grot”. She also feeds him strange substances such as “roots of relish sweet”, which can induce hallucinatory effects further deadening the knights judgement. She also gives him “honey wild and manna dew”; both of these are traditional foods associated with the Gods. In some ways Keats is saying that she is being blasphemous in taking them but she takes them with such ease in that she could be allowed to take them. Either way it backs up the feeling that she is not human as she is either in league with the Gods or a very powerful enemy of them, for who else would incur their wrath? This gives a feeling of wonder to the reader, as this is something beyond this world. Keats himself is expressing his feelings that no human knows for sure what lies beyond this planet and by showing the idea of there being something that we don’t understand, puts the love between the knight and the woman into greater context as their feelings are spanning two worlds. On the other hand ‘To Autumn’ is about nature and the real world. It is concerned with the passing of time within a season, or, as Keats personifies it, a person. Nature, especially the seasons, is a continuos cycle whereas; the supernatural portrayed in ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is a long line, which has no end. Yet, in both, Keats is portraying deep feelings of love, kindness and affection, which are displayed clearly. Marvell also displays his feelings of love within poems, imagery and words.