Donne’s and Marvell’s Stories Comparison

Subject: Literature
Pages: 5
Words: 1397
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Both poems A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne and To His Coy Mistress Love by Andrew Marvell written in the 17th century talk about the topic of love. In the poem, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning the speaker has to part from his love and speaks to her before his departure to tell her that she should not mourn his departure just as the virtuous men pass on mildly. On the other hand, the speaker in To His Coy Mistress tells his lover that time is short and thus she should give in to passion before they die and buried in graves where they cannot exercise their love. The speaker uses time to seduce his mistress. The poets have a different approach to love as Donne sees love as spiritual and eternal while Marvell shows love has a timeline and is physical in particular physical lust. In addition, Donne takes time as a circle, which never ends while Marvell takes it as a straight line that has an end.

The speaker in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning tells his lover that their love is eternal and even if he is gone, his love will still be with her, as separation cannot stop their love. He says “Our two souls therefore, which are one / Though I must go, endure not yet / A breach, but an expansion their souls are one” (Donne 21-23). He uses metaphors to explain his love to his lover and tells her not to mourn his departure but take the separation just as the passing of virtuous men is not mourned. The speaker tells his love those words to avoid the sadness that is brought about by separation of lovers. He tells his lover that crying would be bad “No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move / ‘Twere profanation our joys” (Donne 6-7). He forbids his lover from crying because exposing their affection through tears of sadness would defile their love and make it ordinary. The speaker also feels that if his lover cries over their separation she will reveal the sacred love they share and there is need for the revelation. He says their shared soul will fill the space between them hence they will never feel apart because the separation will not create a rift for them. The speaker compares their love to a compass’ feet. His foot moves around while his lovers foot is fixed at the center of the compass hence their love moves around in circle “Thy firmness makes my circle just / And makes me end where I begun (Donne 34-35).

The time in the poem is in a circle so it has no end just as a circle has none. The lovers will continue to enjoy their spiritual love that extends beyond the physical constraint of time because their love is special as he explains to his lover,

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss (Donne 16-20).

Their love will never end it is eternal and they will continue to love each other even if they lose their physical bodies as the love they share is spiritual. Death cannot end that love, as it will continue to expand through time. The kind of love they share is deep and spiritual hence it will never end because the connection the lovers have can withstand separation without breaking. There love is gold that stretches under heat and the heat of separation will only stretch their love. The love the speaker shares with his lover is different from the ordinary love that people share that requires physical presence of the other person and fades when occurs separation occurs. However, their love is perfect and as long as their souls are connected, their love will transcend the physical nature that characterizes human relationships.

The author of the poem uses nine stanzas to pass the message of his poem. He uses simple lines that follow a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB throughout the poem. The poem also employees an iambic tetrameter. An iambic tetrameter means that there are two syllables, which form one tetra. The poem has four tetras or eight syllables in each line.

The other poem To His Coy Mistress a nameless man tells his coy mistress that if they had time on their side he would praise and admire her. He would also focus on every part of her until he reached her heart. The speaker tries to seduce the mistress using the idea of death. Death seems like a bad idea to use in seduction but the speaker uses it to show his mistress the urgency of seizing the opportunity because time is short and it is not on their side and one day they are going to die. He tells her they do not have time because they will not be alive forever but if they had forever, “We would sit down and think which way / To walk, and pass our long love’s day;” (Marvell 3-4). The speaker exaggerates time as he tells his lover that “Love you ten years before the Flood; / And you should, if you please, refuse / Till the conversion of the Jews (Marvell 8-10). Moreover, he goes to tell her that he would love her by river Ganges in India all the way to the Humber in England. He is very good in flattering his mistress but then becomes realistic and changes his tone in the second part of the poem by saying “But at my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near; (Marvell 21-22). He tells the mistress those words to show her that soon they will be no more and now is the time to take action. He tells her that her beauty will vanish including “That long preserv’d virginity, (Marvell 28).

The speaker believes that even love has a time span and is physical such that once time is gone and that is through death love ends. He tells his mistress that her beauty will disappear and the worms in the grave will turn her quaint into dust. The tone of the speaker further changes in the final section of the poem and the regulated meter of the poem changes as the pace of the speaker increases as he tries to convince the coy mistress to take action and gain some control over time. No man has control over time and by taking action the mistress can make it run even if no one can make it stand. His passion for the mistress reveals the lust he has for the mistress and he wants to make her his before time runs out. He tells her that they should express they pleasure “Now let us sport us while we may; / And now, like am’rous birds of prey,” (Marvell 37-38). The imagery he uses in the final part show his desire to make love to the mistress as he tells her to take action and have pleasure, which will free them albeit for a little while from the tickling hand of time. The speaker is only after a physical encounter with his love before time lapses but the speaker in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is interested in love that will stand forever. He tells his lover to have hope in that love that will never end unlike the second speaker who uses time to convince his lover to give up her virginity to him now.

Marvell uses iambic tetrameter just as in Donne’s poem. The poem has forty-six lines and each pair of the lines rhyme. The poet utilizes dramatic monologue in the poem as the speaker does all the talking in the poem. He talks to the mistress who is a silent character and the reader eavesdrops on his conversation to his mistress.

Finally, the speakers in both poems believe in love and want to experience it with their lovers. There difference is that the speaker in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning believes in an eternal spiritual love while the other speaker in To His Coy Mistress believes in a physical kind of love that has a limited time span. The two poems may have been written a long time ago but the topic they tackle is relevant today and leaves the reader thinking more about love.


Donne, John. A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. 2000. Web.

Marvell, Andrew. To His Coy Mistress. 2011. Web.