Love poetry has been evolving for centuries by poets exploring every detail of love and expressing it in their own ways. Love poetry is a way for a poet to reveal his feelings on a more personal level to explore the concept and meanings of love. Renaissance poets expressed their poetry in Sonnets, the most famous of which are by Shakespeare, who compared his love to a summer’s day in Sonnet 18. Edmund Spenser was another Renaissance poet, who wrote a cycle of Sonnets called Amoretti which expressed his love for a lady.
The narrators of Sonnet 18 and Amoretti 75 both believe that love can defeat the passing of time through the ‘lines’ of their poetry, as long as their poetry is being read, their love shall ‘live’ and be ‘eternal’.
However, the narrators of To his Coy Mistress and Sonnets to Delia use a more realistic approach to scare their lovers with the thought of growing old and dying. Their poetry has a more physical approach to love as they believe that time will conquer their devotion and they will die with the passing of time. Both poems have a sexual content which when explored thoroughly; reveals that the reason of their poems is to get their lovers to sleep with them before their beauty fades forever.
Both Sonnet 18 and Amoretti 75 are poems about love outlasting time. The narrator in Sonnet 18 rhetorically asks if he should ‘compare thee to a summer’s day’. Moreover he knows that the seasons inevitably change for the worse, ‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’, and he wants his lover to have an ‘eternal summer’ meaning that he wishes her to stay youthful evermore. Shakespeare uses the changing of the seasons to represent the passing of time and uses the power of his ‘eternal lines’ to give him and his loved one immortality.
As Shakespeare uses the passing of the seasons to show that time is inescapable, Spenser uses the tide to illustrate that time waits for no one. He relates this passing of time to love as he in inscribes his lovers name into the ‘strand’ and the tide ‘washed’ it away twice signifying that time moves like the waves, and time is un stoppable.
Spenser uses the popular romantic setting of a beach to set the scene of love. He writes ‘her name upon the strand’ and when washed away the ‘tide’ preys on the narrator’s pain by talking away his lover’s name. This shows his helplessness to control the passing of time which upsets him as he claims that their ‘love shall live’ forever.
Spencer uses rhythmic pentameter to tie the rhythm of the poem to the motion of the waves washing in and out on the ‘strand’. This is used in every quatrain to link together the whole sonnet.
He also uses alliteration, for example ‘w’ when the ‘waves washed it away’ to create a sound like the actual tide washing in and out. Spencer uses this alliteration to accentuate the imagery of the sonnet.
Shakespeare uses descriptive flattery and compliments, calling the subject ‘lovely’ to show his affection. However, he subtly accentuates the attention towards himself by using iambic pentameter, putting ‘I’ in a main beat and ‘thee’ in the weaker beat between showing that the couple are more apart from each other than together. In contrast, Spenser refers to the two lovers as ‘our’ in Amoretti 75 showing that they are more equally in love and that his poem is not a selfish piece of writing about himself and his writing, but it shows that his lover means just as much to him as his writing.
Another way in which he shows the equality between the lovers is by letting his lover respond and each of them have separate monologues in the poem, whereas Shakespeare refers to the lover as an object using ‘I’ and ‘thee’ separately.
Sonnet 18, as well as being a way of flattering his muse, concerns the stability of love and immortality. Shakespeare believes that even ‘death’ could not consume his love as his poetry shall save them. ‘In the final couplet he accentuates this and pushes the importance of his poetry to a higher level and leaves his original theme behind, his muse.’ Therefore, the theme of the poem could be seen as a boastful and an arrogant view of his own poetry.
Andrew Marvell, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is written as an invitation to his lady to love now and not later. He tries to persuade his lover to sleep with him by telling her that her virginity would be appropriate if they had all the time in the world to be together. Nonetheless, they cannot live forever so he wants her to seize the moment.
This poem is a ‘carpe diem’ poem as it is based on seizing the moment whilst they still are alive.
Samuel Daniel’s ‘Sonnet to Delia’ has the same carpe diem theme throughout the poem, asking his loved one to ‘love now’ before she is dead like ‘withered flowers’.
‘To His Coy Mistress’ is set in three stanzas, each of a different tone. In the first he flatters her by using imagery to tell her how much more she deserves than he does to make him seem like a genuine man. However, this stanza is set in the conditional tense and is all an ‘if’, and so not defiantly or ever going to happen.
He describes her to be ‘by the Indian Ganges’ side’ and himself ‘by the tide of Humber’ as she is so much better than himself.
The narrator uses hyperbole to prove to his loved one that if they had ‘world enough’ time, they would spend all their time together .
‘An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze.’
Marvell also uses enjambment in the final stanza to speed up the sentences making them seem more urgent, this accentuates the stanza which is meaning to arouse the lover.
‘Sonnets to Delia’ also flatters his loved one by comparing her to a rose, which is symbolically known as the beautiful symbol of love and lust. However, this is a disguise for the real purpose of the poem which is to tell his loved one that her beauty shall fade.
The narrator tells his loved one that unlike the rose being able to come back to life the next spring, her ‘blush’ will ‘fade’ and her beauty will not be able to be ‘revive’ the next spring, so he pressures her to not waste her ‘treasure’ in ‘vain’ but instead sleep with him now.
Both poems have the same theme and exploration that love should not be wasted with vanity and ‘coyness’ but spent by the youth while love is still a ‘tender bud’.
The narrators also use persuasive language to insist to the girl that losing her virginity now is acceptable because if she keeps it ‘preserved’, she will die a virgin and only death will be able to take her virginity.
All four poems have one thing in common, which is the theme of love and time. Each poet has written his poem to show his adoration and want for his lover. All three poets have a different way to portray his feelings, which creates originality of the poem. By comparing their lovers to different objects, ‘the half blown rose’, and a ‘Summer’s day’, they create a unique mood and tone for each owns poem, whether it be sexual, romantic or melancholy.
Love poetry has been evolving for centuries, and as long as love poets are expanding their language and imagination , love poetry shall ‘live forever’ through love itself.