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Compare the ways in which 3 poets write about relationships Essay

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‘To his coy mistress’, ‘Remember’ and ‘Since there’s no help…’ are all poems about relationships, the difference is the interpretation of the poet’s message, structure and other various aspects of the poems.

‘To his coy mistress’ by Andrew Marvell and ‘Since there’s no help’ by Michael Drayton were both written around the 16th and 17th centuries and explain very different characteristics of love. Drayton wrote a poem about the end of a relationship with a partner expressing that the love between them is dying.

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On the other hand Marvell writes, in a poetical way, someone’s argument to a lover trying to persuade them to have sex with them. This poem captivates your attention with the extremes a man would go to have sex with a young virgin, unlike the other poems that are about two partners love for each other. Similarly to Draytons poem, about love in a relationship, Christina Rossetti wrote a poem in the late 19th century to her partner telling him what to remember about their time together.


The poem ‘To his coy mistress’ starts with Marvell addressing the young lady, whom he wishes to be his lover that there is no time for her to be coy. Straight away this gives the impression that he’s an intimidating and powerful man. ‘Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime’ Marvell tells the lady that being coy is alright when you have time but implies their time is limited and therefore she has no time to be coy, in effect he is pressurising her to do something that she is uncomfortable with.

Through the repetition of time in the above sentences you may have guessed that it plays an important role in the poem. Marvell refers to time regularly in the poem as part of his persuasion techniques. The way in which he uses time pressurises the woman into doing what he wants. For example ‘Time’s winged chariot hurrying near’ implies that she can’t live forever so must make the most of the time she has.

He uses time again in the concluding lines of the poem as a last persuasion to get his way ‘Thus, though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run’ Here Marvell explains to the lady that they cannot make time stand still completely but they can make the most of the time they have. When you feel bored and upset your time seems to go slowly compared to when you are happy and this quote uses this to say that their time will be ‘running’ if they are together due to the good times they will have.

Similarly to Marvell, personifying time, Drayton uses the same technique by personifying love ‘Now, if thou would’st, when all have given him over, from death to life thou might’st him yet recover’ Here Drayton has personified love by saying it is dying but may come back to life. I feel this is a good method by which the poet can get his message across with ease. In this case Drayton has personified love as a person on the verge of death. When comparing the two poems it becomes clear that this technique is also useful in distinguishing the message from a speech or letter into a poem.


A positive image in the love poem ‘Remember’ is where Rossetti writes ‘Better by far you should forget and smile than you should remember and be sad’. She is expressing that she would rather be forgotten if that is the way to make her husband remain happy as she doesn’t want to be remembered if it will make him sad. Rossetti’ symbolises her love for her husband because she couldn’t bare him being sad by remembering her, therefore giving an optimistic image of their relationship.

Rossetti also expresses sorrow images ‘Gone far away into the silent land. When you can no more hold me by the hand’ portrays that when she dies she will go to a silent land where she will be all alone, in comparison to when she is alive she can hold her husband’s hand, this reminding him that when she dies they will be separated forever. This is a sad image because it implies that their close bond will be split for eternity. The sadness is emphasised further because their relationship together was obviously true love yet now it is near its end.

Marvell uses death in his persuasion, ‘Time’s winged chariot hurrying near’ A downbeat quote persuading the young lady that if they do not have sex that soon times winged chariot will collect them. He is implying it will be too late if they wait as eventually they will get old and die. Marvell personifies time as a chariot and I think his meaning is that a chariot collects people once they die and as they age the chariot gets nearer and so tries to put across this image to the woman.

Marvell attempts to persuade the young lady that he will spend an age to admire each part of her and at the very end of the admiration she will love him back. He then says that she deserves no less than this and that he will never give her less than what she deserves. ‘An age at least to every part and the last age should show your heart: for lady, you do not deserve this state; nor would I love at lower rate’ this quote is not intimidating, like most of the poem I think he says it so the young lady thinks he is a good man.

I don’t think Marvell wrote the poem because of his love for her, even though in some parts of the poem he tries to re-assure her that he does love her, instead I think he uses it to take advantage of her naivety – quote gives a pleasant image but has malicious intentions. I feel he says this only because writing about love is a good method when trying to lure her into bed and even though this quote may be deceiving she will probably not realise due to her young age.

At the end of the poem Marvell tells the young lady that he would rather die than be without her ‘Rather at once our time devour than languish in its slow-chapped power’ Lines 39-40. This gives an image that he would rather all his time go, and would prefer to die than be without her because he would have to suffer in times power as his life would seem to be going slower if he wasn’t with her. As this quote is written in the concluding lines of the poem it continues to lead your thoughts to think he uses love as a means of enticing her into doing what he wants and to trick her into believing that he’d rather die than be without her.

In the poem ‘Since there’s no help…’ there are a lot of negative images with few positive ones. This is due to the fact that love is dying out compared to Marvell’s poem in which the man wants the lady to believe he is in love with her, so if he expresses too many negative images then she would be less likely to believe him, different in that of Rossettis poem in which the relationship is very strong but the circumstances are of the person dying and not the love and by this she portrays how much love she has for him.

In the opening lines Drayton tells the lady he wants nothing more to do with her ‘you get no more of me’ even the phrase itself gives you the image that he doesn’t want them to be together any longer.

He continues to feel bitter and depressed and he reflects his mood in the negative images he gives in the poem. ‘I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart, that thus so cleanly I myself can free’ Drayton is almost trying to persuade her and himself that he doesn’t love her anymore and that he can be free of her, if their relationship ends.

I don’t think Drayton does want the relationship to end but says this because he feels that he has no choice and doesn’t want to give his partner the impression that he would forgive her, whatever she does, otherwise she will take him for granted.


Marvell, Drayton and Rossetti all use rhyming couplets in the structure of their poems and this makes the poem easy and interesting to read. If it excluded the rhyming couplets reading the poem would be dull and the poet’s message would probably be lost in what would sound more like a speech.

Drayton and Rossetti both wrote traditional love poems, the differences being that Rossetti wrote about the great amount of love between a couple and Drayton wrote about the lack of love in the relationship. Both poems include only 14 lines as opposed to the 46 of Marvell’s poem, however, all three poems work well. I felt Marvell chose to write a longer poem so he could properly express the argument and message it contained whereas I felt Rossetti and Drayton chose the shorter structure would be the most efficient way to explain what they wanted as they may have felt that choosing a longer structured poem to end a relationship or to express someone’s feelings would make the poem dull and boring.

The difference between Rossetti’s and Drayton’s traditional love poems is that Rossetti split the poem into two stanzas; one with 6 lines and the other with 8 and thus uses the structure of a Petrachan sonnet whereas Drayton used the Shakespearean Iambic Pentameter which contains what would now be 10 syllables per line. Rossetti and Drayton writing a sonnet is evidence that they must love their partner. To write a sonnet to someone puts across the fact that you love them through the structure alone because of it being a traditional love poem.

Language / Tone

Marvell wrote his poem with persuasive and argumentative language. He tries to pressurise the person it is written for by consistently using death in his argument. At the beginning he says that there is no time to be coy but later says the opposite by saying ‘if you please, refuse till the conversion of the Jews’. As Jews are renowned for the pride they have in their religion he may feel there is not much chance of his succeeding with the young lady unless he poses this argument to change her opinion.

Marvell tries to allure the young woman into having sex by using shock tactics ‘Then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity and your quaint honour turn to dust and into ashes all my lust’ Notice the language that he uses, as opposed to saying that someone else will take her virginity he gives her the image of her losing it to worms once she dies. This is a horrific image and using this destructive image it is far more effective because of the message behind it. Rather than using kindness to persuade his mistress into having sex he tries to scare her and in using such a forceful phrase on someone he claims to love further confirms his intimidation of this poor innocent girl.

In comparison Rossetti wrote her poem in a more relaxed way but still with an important point to make. This is because she was writing it to someone who she has loved for most her life, however, she still wanted to persuade him not to grieve. Remember is repeated throughout the poem, this is because she wants to be remembered but doesn’t want to be mourned. Her message is expressed when she writes ‘Only remember me; you understand’ and ‘and afterwards remember, do not grieve’ both these quotes found in the second stanza of her poem prove that she doesn’t want him to forget her nor grieve.

Rossetti, unlike Marvell, didn’t write on her own behalf as Rossetti wrote solely for her husband and mentioned herself rarely in the poem, I felt this was sad as she is the one dying but she didn’t want to meake her husband feel more upset so she couldn’t tell him how she was really feeling. You can tell she loved her partner and that the poem was written with good intentions.

Drayton wrote his poem in such a way that it seemed that he was trying to persuade himself that he would be better off ending the relationship as well as telling his partner that their relationship had finished. Draytons intitial message to his partner is that their relationship is worth nothing, however, at the end begins to realise the love he has for her and so tells her the love may come back and as he does this the message at the end is very similar to the message expressed by Rossetti ‘when all have given him over, from death to life thou might’st him yet recover’ Drayton, talking about love personifying, hints that the love may come back to their relationship and may this happen his relationship could be similar to Rossettis loving relationship with her husband.

My response to the poems

My feelings about each poem differ; I feel the poem by Rossetti is sad as you can tell the relationship was strong and the poem was written to give her husband strength to go on after her death and remember the good things once she’s dead. It is effective as you know they had a good relationship because information such as their planned future together can be taken from the poem ‘no more day by day you tell me of the future that you planned’. It is also sad because she showed no self pity and so makes you feel sorry for her husband who wouldn’t know how his wife felt about her nearing death.

My feelings about Marvells poem are completely different. I think this poem is quite threatening and harsh. He tells the young lady in the poem that she has to make her decision before she is old and ugly as he will no longer love her. I think he is also mean to write a poem in the persuasive language he does because she is young and na�ve and he uses this to his advantage. The horrific images he portrays further prove that he uses love falsely because if he did love her he wouldn’t scare her into having sex against her will. ‘Then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity and your quaint honour turn to dust and into ashes all my lust’ This illustrates the extremes the speaker is prepared to go to in order to get what he wants, he is trying to give her negative thoughts of what will happen if she rejects him.

As mentioned before, the poem was written in the 17th century in an era which girls normally married as virgins and usually at a very young age. Marvell uses this to his advantage by continuing to express, what I think, is false love because by getting her to believe he is in love with her he feels he stands a greater chance of her losing her virginity to him.

I felt sorry for Drayton after reading his poem because I felt he wrote it after finding out about his partner’s affair and this would account for his harsh way of ending their relationship and angry tone used when ending it. However, to tell his partner that he can be free without her is surprising, especially when at the end of the poem he says the love may come back.

I think Drayton wrote this poem on the back of an affair his partner had been having, ‘Now at the last gasp of loves latest breath, when, his pulse failing, passion speechless lies, when faith is kneeling by his bed of death’. The phrase speechless lies could be a reflection of the times she lied to him while having the affair and faith kneeling by deaths bed shows that along with the love, faith had also left the relationship giving further reason to think she had an affair. Aswell as this Drayton lets his partner know that the love in their relationship is dying and has nearly gone completely, by saying that it is taking its last gasp of breath.

Shortly after, Drayton gives his partner the impression that the love may come back. ‘Now, if thou would’st, when all have given him over, from death to life thou might’st him yet recover’. This quote gave me the feeling that the relationship could come back giving reason to believe that the poem was written as retaliation after finding out about an affair. Understandably he would be distraught and so uses the harsh images mentioned in the early stages of the poem but finally ending by realising the amount of love he has for his partner and so says that they might be able to overcome this and love each other again.

The poem I preferred

Overall the poem that I most preferred was Draytons poem ‘Since theres no help…’ This is because unlike Marvells poem it isn’t as long and is kept to a simple 14 line structure. I feel that this made it easier to understand as opposed to Marvells longer poem. Even though the longer length may have added more detail I found this made it far easier to lose interest. Rossettis poem, like Draytons, was short, however, I liked the way Drayton personified love throughout his poem by expressing loves life in his relationship. I disliked the overuse of ‘remember’ in Rossettis poem, even though it was obviously intentional, I thought it made the poem repetitive with Rossetti continually telling her husband what to remember and remember what not to do.

However, I did think that Marvells poem was strong in its persuasiveness and thought it would probably be successful in taking advantage of the young girl, which was the purpose of him writing it. Another reason for my preference of Draytons poem is that it questions the strength of the relationship and whether feelings can be turned off so easily.

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