Introduction to Literature, Spring 1999
Ray's Syllabus          Last Updated July 28, 1999                          Kate's Syllabus

JOHN DONNE (1572-1631)

GEORGE HERBERT (1593-1633)

ROBERT HERRICK (1591-1674)

ANDREW MARVELL (1621-1678)

 Relevant Links

  • Theme: 

  • Traditional Concepts of Love
  •  Style: 

  • Metaphysical Poetry & Platonic Love
  • Baroque: 

  • Rubens' Paintings  in comparison with Caravaggio &Rembrandt
    "hightened sensuality combined with spirituality"
    Peter Paul Rubens Garden of Love c.  1638 Museo del Prado, Madrid.
    Rubens and his young wife, Helene, the couple at the far left, are shown in a garden, about to join a group of obviously loving couples. [Rubens' own house in the background, and Venus and cupids on the left] ... The colors are soft and warm, light, gay, ripe, and sensous.  The figures melt into each other in a soft, flowing rhythm.  ...The courtly man in the broad-brimmed hat introduces us to a world that will be, more and more, the subject of art--a golden time without pian or anxiety. (from The Humanities 4th ed.  p. 136). 

    Jack Donne
     from John Donne site National Portrait Gallery Image Digimarc Copyright Protected
    JOHN DONNE (1572-1631)

    "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" (1612)

    "The Flea"

    Relevant Links


    "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
    E-Text with notes
    Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
      The occasion of the poem is the immanent, though temporary, separation of two lovers.  The poet argues, paradoxically, that their separation is too momentous for such trivial displays of emotions and that the separation is merely illusory.
    1. The first stanza describes the death of "virtuous men." To what is their death compared in the second stanza? (Pay attention to the "As...So" sentence pattern. The word "melt" means more than its literal meaning.)
           Platonic Love: How does the speaker compare the love of him and his lover with that of "laity" (l. 8) or "dull sublunary lovers" (13)?
           Conceit: To what does he compare their separation in order to prove that their separation is temporary or illusive?   Pay attention to
    1. What does the title mean? ("Valediction" means farewell utterances.) With all the metaphors for parting we've got so far (death of virtuous men, movement of heavenly spheres, the beating of gold foil), as well as the speaker's attitude toward parting, it should be easy to understand why mourning is not necessary for the lovers. What else is their parting from each other compared to (in stanzas 6 and 7)? (Look, again, for the words "like" and "as".)
    2. How do you like comparing the two lovers to a compass, with one foot fixed in the center, and the other making a circle around?

      "The Flea"
      Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
        1. In this poem, the speaker tries to persuade his mistress to go to bed with him and to demontrate that the reasons for resistance are trivial. How is the flea used in his persuasion? (Clue: the song §A»ú§Ú»ú¡^ Describe the speaker's tone.
        2. It may help you to understand this poem to realize that during the seventeenth century it was believed that women became pregnant when the blood of the man (present in his semen) mixed with her blood during sexual intercourse. With this in mind, what do the first six lines of the second stanza mean to you?
      1.  Look up the term "conceit" in your handbook or our databank. How is the flea in this poem an example of a conceit?  Is the poet contradictory in comparing the flea first to what the lady denies him, to an impregnated being, and then to the honor which might be lost if the lady "yields" to him?.
      2. Why does the speaker say that to kill the flea would be "three sins in killing three"?
      3. In the third stanza, the woman has killed the flea. What is the speaker's response to that?
      What is your response to the speaker's argument in the poem?

      More questions (offered by a course in MSMS)  . . .

    Overviews and Biographies   "Valediction" & "Flea" Essays and Discussions on Donne's Poetry For Further Studies: back to the top

    George Herbert

    "Easter Wings"

    Relevant Links


    Left: George Herbert from George Herbert Homepage

    "Easter Wings"
    Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
    1. This poem is a good example of a visual poem. Describe the visual pattern that the words make on the page.
    2. Is the poem more than just a picture? How does this poem also engage your mind and emotion? How does it also use sounds, such as rhyme and rhythm, to attract your ears?
    3. Herbert was an Anglican minister, and this poem presents some of his religious beliefs. He believed, for example, that sin caused the "fall" of humanity from the Garden of Eden. He also believed that Jesus Christ, when He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, redeemed people from sin and restored them to their original spiritual "wealth and store." How are these religious views about people's fall and rising again reflected in the form and content of the poem?
    4. One of the themes of this poem is human diminution and regrowth. How do the visual pattern and sounds emphasize that theme?¡@

    from The Seventeenth Century Literature site  of  The University of Nebraska at Omaha; another manuscript

    George Herbert: Relevant Links
    Overviews and Biographies Visual Stuffs   "Easter Wings" Herbert's Poetry For Further Studies: ¡@back to the top

    Robert Herrick 

    "Upon Julia's Clothes" 

    Relevant Links

    "Upon Julia's Clothes"
    Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
    1. What does the word "liquefaction" in the first stanza mean?  (Hint: it is related to the word "liquid.")  How does the word "liquefaction" continue the action of the verb "flows" in the second line?
    2. What clothes is Julia wearing in the first stanza? What is she wearing in the second stanza, or is she not wearing clothes at all in the last three lines?
    3. How do the three-line stanzas, called triplets, and the rhymes contribute to the central contrast of the poem?



    Overviews and Biographies Major Websites For Further Studies: back to the top
    Andrew Marvell

    "To His Coy Mistress"

    Relevant Links


    from Andrew Marvell resources
     "To His Coy Mistress"
    E-Text (with notes); Another E-Text with analysis of some lines (from Bluepete)
    Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
    1. This poem, like the poems we've already read from the Victorian period, is a dramatic monologue. Who is the speaker of this poem? Who is he speaking to? What is the dramatic situation that the speaker presents? What does he want from the listener?
    2. Does the speaker in the first stanza think that he and his lover have "world enough and time"? If they did, how would he choose to spend that time?
    3. In the second stanza, the speaker describes his awareness of time and immanent death. How does time influence his relationship with his lover?
    4. If we view this poem as the speaker's attempt to create a logical argument (1. "If we had"; 2. "But"; 3. "Therefore") to persuade his lover, the third stanza presents the final statement of that argument. What does the speaker offer as the logical conclusion to be drawn from the ideas presented in the first two stanzas?

    5. Theme: carpe diem (seize the day)   The poem is a carpe diem poem with some major differences from the convention in 1. the praise of the lady--exaggerated to be ironic of the convention, 2. the macabre image of death, 3. the intensification of pleasure.  What do you think about the poet's offer ("devour our time"; " Let us roll all our strength, and all/Our sweetness, up into one ball"; "tear our pleasures with rough strife"; "make [the sun] run")?

      Applications and Wild Associations

    Overviews and Biographies   "To His Coy Mistress" Fun Sites back to the top

    Seventeenth Century:
    Relevant Links
    General Introduction: Literature General Introduction: History & Culture Further Studies
    Other Authors

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