Compare and contrast Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" with John Donne's "The Sunne Rising"

Both poems “To His Coy Mistress” and “The Sunne Rising” were written by metaphysical poets, this is one of many similarities in the poem. However, there are also a number of differences between them.

In both poems, there is an obvious link to the theme of “Carpe Diem” which simply means “seize the day”. The poems relate to time and that of how it’s running out. They seem to be in a rush.

The content of the poem is Marvell writing a poem to his love partner.

They are truly in love with each other and their love is very passionate for one another. However, there is something missing in their relationship and that is the sexual side. They haven’t had sexual intercourse and the poem is about Marvell trying to persuade his partner into making love to him. He feels that time is running out and that they should “seize the moment”. The life expectancy was at a lower rate in the times of the poem, and he doesn’t want to leave things too late.

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There were many types of diseases in those days, with health services very limited. Today, our life expectancy is on average 77, however, in those days anyone who reached the age of 40 was considered as an older-aged person. He obviously feels that his partner needs a slight push into making love; he shows this by calling her his “Coy Mistress”, which means his shy or reluctant woman.

The poem is split into three paragraphs, which is unusual for poems.

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These three paragraphs state the three stages of argument. The first part is trying o say that if they had all the time in the world, then he wouldn’t need to write the poem and they could do endless lovely things. The second part says explains that they don’t and that they are running out of time. Part three says that they should enjoy themselves and not hold back on making their relationship a sexual one.

Marvell’s style is using rhyming tetrameters, which is rhyming couplets with four beats in every metric line. He varies the punctuation to break up the rhyme to create effect. Marvell portrays an idyllic image by using alliteration. He uses many images to give us a direct view of the situation and help us understand the poem fully. There is an obvious image from the start of the poem. It’s a lazy, unrealistic image of the woman wandering the river Ganges’ side. The mention of “Humber” gives us the answer to where he lives. The river Humber is in Hull and that’s where he’s from.

The choice of vocabulary used by Marvell is clever and effective. He uses “Conversion of the Jews”; another term is steadfast Jesus, which means never to change your religion. This simply means he will love her forever, as the Jews are very proud of their religion, they would never change their religion. Marvell uses many conseits, which are far-fetched or elaborate comparisons, to convey the depth of his love for his partner. He uses the phrase “vegetable love”. This is a way of expressing his love in a hidden way by using a metaphor. The vegetable symbolises his love. The vegetable is good, wholesome and growing, and he’s hoping that the relationship will grow and develop into a sexual sort. There is also very effective personification in the final couplet. Here, the sun is the object being personified by explaining how they can’t make it stop moving but they can make it run. Marvell is simply saying how he can’t stop time but if they have fun then the time will seem to fly. He sees the time passing quickly by them making love, having fun and enjoying themselves.

The poet has a very strong persuasive plea, which I believe is supported by time. Instead of the couple having power over time, time is destruction they control. He obviously thinks highly of his partner and loves her dearly to want to extend their relationship to be more intimate. He feels that she is unbelievably beautiful and he doesn’t that going to waste. He feels touched that she’s holding on to her virginity, yet he does see it as being very old-fashioned. He’s slightly sarcastic here, he feels that there won’t be an embrace in her life and nobody’s embraced in a grave. He compares his partner’s beauty to the “morning dew”. This means that her beauty is fresh, but will fade or dry-up like the morning dew. Marvell uses the word “us” which is a pronoun which emphasises on them being united as one. This is to show and clarify that they are a strong couple. He compares them as “amorous birds of prey”, which is a very peculiar comparison. He sees them as perhaps vultures having to grab their pray before they are too late. The couple’s “pray” is the moment to make love and he feels they should capture the moment before they get older and weaker where they won’t enjoy it as much. He feels he wants to have all his good things at once, because he feels he’s waited too long. He mentions the word “pleasure” which is showing he is definitely giving into his passion and temptation.

He’s deeply in love with the woman and he obviously has an urge and passion for her. However, he is doubly dissatisfied because he wants more. He feels her beauty will go to waste if she waits and takes her life to the “grave”. He uses flattery which is persuasive and sincere. Time is crucial in the poem and is personified along with the sun. We never doubt how much he loves this person. It’s written in the first person narrative and this gives intensity. This gives the poem a more personal side to it which is a better plea.

In the poem “The Sunne Rising” by John Donne, the poet is speaking directly to the sun, and the poem is written in the first person narrative.

Donne begins the poem by insulting the sun, by calling it a rule-breaking fool. He uses “aubade” which is an example of a clever argument. He’s in bed and has just been woken up by the morning sun. The poet is angry and is being arrogant with the sun. He tells the sun off, and demands him to wake up the people in the world who actually need to be woken. On this occasion its young school-boys who are late for school, and apprentices so that they can work, and the farmers so that they can also get to work on the farm.

The poet asks the sun a question of why the sun feels his beams are worthy of respect. Donne feels that he could get rid of the light by simply shutting the curtains. He then compliments the woman’s beauty, saying that her beauty could blind a person’s eyes. He feels that he has the world in his bed with her at his side. All the expensive spices from the world and all the luxuries of life wouldn’t be able to live up to what he has in his bed, which is his partner.

Donne moves on then and describes their love for one another as very strong and true. He contrasts them from the princes whose life is like an act. He mentions the word “alchimie” which is to turn useless lead into valuable metals such as gold and silver. However, he says if he knew how to change the useless metals into gold he wouldn’t care because his love doesn’t compare to any wealth. They are in the bedroom and he feels that he’s got the world around him without having to going beyond the four walls surrounding him, which is a fantastic way to sum up their love and conclude the poem.

In this poem the John Donne seems to address the sun, however, he is actually complimenting the woman. He feels like the woman is his world and she is lay right next to him. He is angry with the sun; however, the woman is compared to the sun with its bright and beautiful beams. By cleverly choosing to use the sun as a mask for what he is actually describing; his partner, he is using the aubade technique.

Both “To His Coy Mistress” and “The Sunne Rising” are undoubtedly extremely passionate poems which produce deep and true feelings from the poets. They are both written in the first person narrative. This is able to give more feelings which are meaningful and it also produces an element of intensity. Andrew Marvell speaks directly to the woman to whom his plea is for, and uses persuasive writing in his poem. John Donne is talking to the sun that is taking a telling off, but is actually complimenting his love partner. Donne’s poem is not as intense as Marvell’s, as the argument takes away the urgency which Marvell produces.

Both poems contain elaborate conseits and larger than life and impressive images. These comparisons are usually clever and often exaggerated.

They both also feature the crucial theme of “carpe diem” which relates to the time, which is a key factor in both poems. The time and the sun are personified in both poems. Both poets also mention wealth in their poems, Donne more so than Marvell. However, they both feel the same way about it. Love is more important than wealth is the clear message given by both. Marvell sees time as a destructive thing and that it is in their control, whereas Donne sees time a relevancy in love. He’s arrogant and says that time is a rag.

The poems are written from different perspectives. Marvell longs for more intimacy in his relationship and is dissatisfied how he’s not being able to make love to his partner. However, Donne is in his bed and in complete bliss, this comes over as slightly more important and smug.

Marvell conveys images with a greater range. There are three moments in the poem. The first sees this beautiful woman which he feels honoured to be with. The second image releases shocking feelings felt by the poet, which perhaps we can relate with him and do feel slight sympathy towards him. The final image is of them both enjoying life to the full, these are indifferent images of peculiar comparisons. Donne displays images which are traditional. They content of wealth and beauty, how the link and how they completely contrast. It shows that love and money can make you feel happy, but love is more important in life. Money can be liked but never loved like true beauty.

I believe it’s imperative that we look at the poems from a different perspective. Both compliment the women mentioned but both have different messages. “To His Coy Mistress” is a persuasive poem which contains flattery to try and convince the woman to take their relationship to the next level. In “The Sunne Rising”, the message is that love is more important than wealth. The main themes are time and love and both are conveyed very cleverly with both wit and deception. I enjoyed both poems as they both showed sound comparisons and true feelings. I preferred the poem by Andrew Marvell as it had a sense of urgency and it was rhythmic to which I found exciting as I never knew what to expect next in the poem.

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Compare and contrast Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" with John Donne's "The Sunne Rising". (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Compare and contrast Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" with John Donne's "The Sunne Rising"

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