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    ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell Essay

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    The main theme of ‘The Sun Rising’ and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is love. Each poem follows different aspects of love. They are both strong aspects of love and both universal themes for they will forever be around as long as people still love each other. These themes are mainly there because of Donne’s and Marvell’s views and personal experiences. Born a Catholic in 1572 John Donne became a lawyer and was well known for sailing as a gentlemen adventurer with Essex and Raleigh. Donne became MP for Brackley in 1601. He secretly married a lady by the name of Ann Moore.

    Donne was briefly imprisoned because of this secret marriage. Donne wrote most of his love poetry before 1615 and wrote various writings including ‘Songs and Sonnets’. In 1615 Donne took holy orders, was ordained as a deacon and became priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral. He was then made royal chaplain to James I. I believe that Donne’s experience of his secret marriage has helped him to understand love and he shows this in the poem. The main theme of ‘The Sun Rising’ is to show how much he loves his lover and how wonderful and important she is.

    The poem contains metaphysical ideas and this helps to emphasise how he feels about his lover. For example the last two lines of the poem read: ‘Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; this bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere’. This creates an image of just the poet and his lover in bed, blocked off from anything or anyone else. It is also saying that as far as the poet is concerned the sun only needs to shine on them as he feels he and his lover is the most important thing in the world and no-one else matters.

    The poem is symmetrical with three regular stanza’s each containing a rhyme scheme of ‘ABBACDCDEE’. This rhyme scheme repetition helps the poem flow and makes it easier to read. The rhyming couplet at the end helps round off each stanza, emphasising it is the end of that stanza and the start of a new idea. The rhyming couplet at the end of the last stanza helps bring the poem to a delicate close because it leaves you with the image of the poet and his lover and nothing else mattering. Donne changes the tone of the poem depending upon who he is talking to or about.

    At the beginning of the poem he uses a very colloquial tone to address the sun and he is disrespectful to the sun. For example, the opening line of the poem: ‘Busy old fool, unruly sun,’ this lets the reader know he is angry at being woken up. The poet talks to the sun as though he is a person; this is because the poet feels very powerful when with his lover and feels authoritative over the sun. He questions the sun on why he is so powerful and why everyone has to run in line with his timing.

    Donne asks: ‘Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run? After this Donne then proceeds to scorn the sun as a time watcher as though the sun has nothing better to do. Donne asks: ‘Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide late schoolboys, and sour prentices. Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices;’ This section creates many images of normal a wide variety of people, ranging from young schoolboys to the king and this helps emphasise the fact that Donne wants the sun to shine anywhere but in his room with his lover.

    The rhyming couplet that end the first stanza, read: ‘Love all alike, no seasons know, nor clime, Nor hours, days, months which are the rags of time. ‘ These two lines help summarise the first stanza, which is that love never changes and does not know seasons or time unlike the sun which changes what time he rises depending on the time of year. Donne is also implying it is the same for all lovers. When Donne is talking about his lover he uses a completely different tone compared to when he is talking to the sun.

    He is more relaxed and structures the words so that they are said more slowly than before. For example, ‘She is all states, and all princess I’, the use of ‘all’ helps slow down the line and the alliteration of the ‘s’ sound forces you to say it slowly and with emphasis on the repeated ‘all’. In the second stanza Donne tries to take some authority over the sun by stating: ‘Thy beams, so reverend and strong why shouldst thou think? I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,’ Donne is saying how easy it would be for him to close his eyes so that he can eclipse the sun.

    Donne then proceeds to say: ‘But that I would not lose her sight so long:’ this means that Donne does not want to lose sight of his lover, whose eyes are brighter than the sun. By saying this, Donne is implying that his lover is greater and more beautiful than the sun. The second stanza creates some of the most important exotic imagery in the whole poem. In this stanza Donne is telling the sun that even if he travelled around the whole world, to some of the most beautiful places, the sun would not find anything as beautiful as Donne’s lover.

    The stanza reads (line 16) ‘Look, and tomorrow late, tell me whether both the India’s of spice and mine, Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me. ‘ These exaggerated comparisons known as conceits make it very interesting for the reader. In this he is also asking the sun if he finds his lover more beautiful than the treasures of the earth. Donne’s tone has calmed down a lot in the second stanza compared to the first stanza. I believe this is because at first he is grumpy because he had been woken up and no one likes being woken up in the morning.

    Then as the poem goes Donne becomes more expansive about his love and talks more about his lovers beauty. In the third stanza Donne’s tone becomes more nonchalant. In this stanza he compliments his lover a lot and the first two lines read: She is all states, and all Princes I, Nothing else is. ‘ I believe these are two of important lines in the poem as they generally summarise the whole meaning of the poem. In these two lines Donne is saying that she is all the countries in the world and he is all the princes and that nothing else matters to him apart from her.

    Mid-way through the stanza Donne says: ‘Thou, sun, art half as happy as we, In that the world’s contracted thus;’ This is saying that the sun isn’t half as happy as Donne and his lover, even though the sun gets to see everything and is a powerful source of life because without the sun we would all die due to starvation from no crops being grown. I t also says that Donne’s world has shrunken down and all that he needs is confined in his bedroom, i. e. his lover. Also in that quote, the alliteration of the ‘h’ sound makes you say the sentence slower and almost sounds like breathlessness shown in awe of their emotions.

    This gives it more meaning. The very last rhyming couplet of the poem reinforces that all Donne needs is his lover, it says: ‘Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere. ‘ I think this is a great sentence to end on because-as said already- this creates an image of Donne, in bed with his lover, blocked off from the world and confined to his little bedroom where Donne is at his happiest because he is with his lover and he can not be disturbed by anyone, not even the sun. To His Coy Mistress’ written by Andrew Marvell, also contains the theme of love, but focuses on a different aspect to ‘The sun rising. ‘

    Born in 1621, Andrew Marvell was brought up in Hull on the River Humber and was born a Protestant. He briefly converted to a Catholic but then changed back. He had many skills and was a writer, a tutor and a traveller. In 1659 he was elected MP for Hull and he was in power for nearly 20 years. ‘To his coy mistress’ is his most famous poem, and it is cleverly written on the ancient theme of carpe diem -‘or seize the day’- as an attempt to convince a girl to sleep with him.

    The poem starts off very slowly and at this time Marvell is being patient with the girl. At first he implies that the lady not wanting to sleep with him and wait is a crime. The first two lines read: ‘Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime. This is saying that it would not be a crime if they had forever to follow the conventional courtship rituals. The poem is written with rhyming couplets all the way through and the poem does not have any stanzas.

    The first type of imagery starts in the fifth line where Marvell writes: ‘Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side, Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the flood. This means that he would have loved her before the flood in the bible. He is implying if he could he would have loved her forever. Marvell also writes about how if he had the time he would wait for her to feel ready to have sex, but he does not have that time and wants to take her virginity now. This is the whole point of the poem and is very well expressed.

    Marvell writes: ‘But at my back, I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near’ which shows that he is conscious of the time passing and that he is not getting any closer to having sex with her. The poem uses metaphors very effectively. The eleventh line reads: ‘My vegetable love shall grow’. This means that his love is like a vegetable, and it starts of a seed, and that needs looking after and nurturing in order to grow, just like his love. Vegetables need certain things to grow, like water and sunlight, and I think Marvell’s love is like that because he needs to have sex with her so his love can grow even more.

    In the second quarter of the poem Marvell starts to compliment his lover as an attempt to seduce her in to bed. He does this by saying: ‘An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes and thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast; But thirty thousand to the rest: An age, at least, to every part, and the last age should go to her heart. ‘ In these lines Marvell is saying how he should, pay more attention to her beauty, and that she deserves nothing less. This is quite ironic because he does not even attempt to do any of this. Marvell rounds this off by writing: ‘For, lady, you deserve this state; Nor would I love at a lower rate.

    After this comes the couplet: ‘But, at my back, I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,’ which is saying he does not have time to pay that much attention to her as he said he would like to. This is a clever sentence, because it contains personification, imagery and a metaphor. It contains personification because it makes you think time is a person on a chariot, and you get a good image of this in your mind. It is also metaphorical because it compares the speed of time and how people are always running out of time as someone is hurrying him up. After this, Marvell becomes more and more restless and impatient.

    The tone changes and becomes more urgent. It speeds up, as Marvell is getting angry because she still will not sleep with him. Marvell now starts to talk about passion and how, if she does not have sex soon, she never will. He writes: ‘That long preserved virginity: and your quaint honour turn to dust; And into ashes all my lust’ This is also hinting he is getting bored of waiting and that his passion for her will die down if he does not have sex with her soon. It is also threatening her with the idea of dying a virgin. He then writes: ‘The graves a fine and private place, but none I think do their embrace.

    Now, therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew. And while thy willing soul transpires, at every pore with instant fires. ‘ This shows that Marvell is desperate and he is saying that when she dies no one will want to have sex with her and she should do it while she is young because no one will want her when she is old. You can now sense that Marvell is extremely frustrated and he uses the word ‘Now’ frequently. In one final gasp Marvell writes: ‘Let us roll all our strength, and all our sweetness, up into one ball; and tear our pleasures, with rough strife, Through the iron gates of life.

    He is saying that they should rip their clothes off and make love as soon as possible because it will be like heaven-‘the iron gates of life’. This gives a sexual image of the gates of life. To conclude the poem Marvell writes: ‘Thus, though we can not make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run. ‘ This means that they cannot stop time, but they can use time wisely, by making the most of it to make love. These two poems are both about different aspects of love, ‘The sun rising’ focuses on how wonderful a lover can be, ‘To his coy mistress is all about seizing the day, and consummating his love.

    To his coy mistress’ is not really about being in the blissful state of love, unlike ‘The Sun Rising. ‘ It is more to do with the physical aspect of making love, and although you get the impression it is about love it never says it in the poem. I think that in ‘To his coy mistress’ it shows how man can get desperate for love and will resort to saying anything. It does not show the one quality that only human beings have, that no other life form on earth have, that is being able to have feelings to someone and use sex as an expression of peoples love. ‘The sun rising’ shows this and this is why I feel people can relate to this poem better.

    The arguments for love in ‘The Sun Rising’ are mainly about celebrating love and showing that you feel love for someone, and it gets more elaborate and expansive throughout the poem. For example it starts out with ordinary schoolboys and later talks about more exotic ideas like the West Indies, until finally it talks about the universe. ‘To His Coy Mistress’ examines the time essence of a relationship and how there is not enough time to do everything the way it should be done and is about making the most of your youth. It is a very time conscious poem and expresses how Marvell feels about enjoying life.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell Essay. (2017, Oct 25). Retrieved from

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