Carpe Diem: Wooing Lovers During The Renaissance (a Close Reading Of Poetry)

Andrew Marvell’s To his Coy Mistress (Christopher Marlowe) and “The Passionate Shepherd To his Love” (Andrew Marvell) are strong examples of sensual, Carpe Diem Renaissance poetry. The poets-speakers try to get their beloveds to act by using various compliments, rhythmic patterns and a hurryy tone. However, their tactics diverge here. Marlowe’s poet-speaker, who is a fictionalized pastoralist, uses innuendo and abstract imagery to try and win her love. Marvell’s speaker, on the other hand, is more direct and logical. He bemoans their delay and encourages his lover not to take any chances in securing their union. Both poet-speakers rely on carpe denim to convince their prospective lovers.

Marlowe’s poet-speaker, Marlowe’s shepherd, sets the poem’s sensuous and rushed tone with the first two lines. He says “Come Live With Me and By My Love / And We will All the Pleasures Prove” (1-2). The shepherd uses the imperative form of the phrase “pleasures” in these lines to convey the desperation of his affections. Also, speaking in iambic-tetrameter creates tension within the poem by creating a fast-paced rhyme. This technique is used to reinforce the idea of carpe denem within the poem. This quatrain is completed by the poet-speaker, who describes the physical setting in pastoral terms. (3) Because pastoral settings in Romantic literature are often intended to evoke the sublime (or beauty), Marlowe’s poet -speaker uses these physical features to describe the setting. The shepherd speaks of simple pleasures in contrast to the first. The poet-speaker creates a romantic picture for his mistress by promising his love, “will sit upon rocks, / Watching the shepherds feed the flocks,/ This tactic links the mistress with the tranquil landscapes that have been described. The poet-speaker’s slow speech pattern is highlighted in line 7 and 8. This enjambment hides the tension and lengthens the phrases. The poet-speaker’s hypotheses become more hyperbolic as the poem progresses. “…I will make thy beds of roses/ and a thousand fragrant poies,/ A cap with flowers, and an embroidered kirtle / All embroidered with leaves of myrtle.” (9-12). His speaking speed increases as the poet-speaker becomes more extravagant in his gifts. The line 11 comma speeds up the poem, making it appear that the shepherd is fast-reciting a list. The gift-giving speed creates the illusion of realness, even though the hyperbole is true. Additionally, the quatrains are marked by feminine rhymes, giving the reader a relaxing effect. The speaker continues to list for two more, expanding some of the gifts. Lines 12 and 13 include “A gown made out of the finest Wool / Which from Our Pretty Lambs We Pull” before returning back to fast-paced recall. (17) The poet-speaker’s desire to be with his love one day is reflected in the line 13 use of “we”, “our” and “our”.

But, carpe diem is a nature that the shepherd hopes his lover will also be present. After his extravagant hyperbolic musings, the poet-speaker pleads for a concrete thought: “Come together, and be your love” (20). The poet-speaker brings it all back with this line. His final quatrain resorts again to pastoral fantasies, ending with a repeated “Then Live with Me and Be My Love” (24). As he hopes to find love, the poet speaks slowly and places more emphasis on his desire.

Marvell’s poet-speaker is a stark contrast to Marlowe’s futuristic hyperbole and future scenarios. He adopts a more strict carpe diem approach. Instead of giving his love a multitude of future gifts, the speaker provides context and says “Had there been enough time, world, and space, / This coyness lady, were no crime.” (1-2). Speak in iambic, the poet-speaker brings out the essence of the carpe Diem mentality. The speaker creates a hypothetical grounded on the present. Marvell’s presenter talks about how they “would eat, and then think which way/to go”, using this conditional phrase for metaphorical love. He decides if she should return his affections. The speaker’s choice of words shows a consolidation, creating an impression of urgency. The poet-speaker adds that he will wait “till there is conversion of Jews” (10) to let her decide, and then allow his “vegetable passion” (11) growth. This is not possible, however, because time is fast running out. This hyperbolic hypothese is what reveals the true intentions of the poet-speaker.

Marlowe’s poet speaker is more subtle and erotic than Marvell, but Marvell is openly sexual. The poet-speaker speaks of the two hundred years that he would spend “to love each breast” (15-16). The poet insists on loving each part of his relationship, but the addition of her breasts alongside “thine eyes” (14) shows his preference for her erogenous aspects. The poet breaks away from his preoccupations with the physical by describing the time of his love. He said, “But back I always listen / Time’s winded chariot hurrying towards,” bringing his speech back down to the present (21-22). The poet-speaker starts the poem by telling his love about death. The speaker then gives a horrifying sexualized account about what his lover will do after his death. He stated that “Thy beauty won’t be found / nor in thy marble vault shall sound” (25-29). The speaker posits a false dichotomy called carpe diem: if I can’t take you virginity, it will go to the worms. This is the poet-speaker’s attempt to make his mistress understand why she must always live in today.

Marlowe’s shepherd would make allusions of future rewards to his wife, while Marvell’s poet speaks directly to her body in a more erotic manner. The poet-speaker said, “Let all our strength be / all / our sweetness into one ball” (441-44). This is far from romantic appeal. The poet-speaker attempts to persuade his mistress to take physical action, in contrast to their subjective notions of “time” or “romance”. Although the speaker is aware that time cannot be defeated, he asks his mistress for help to make him feel something that will distract them from their imminent deaths. While both Marlowe’s and Marvells poetry-speakers are able to make powerful speeches to persuade their loved ones to act, they have different approaches to carpe diem. Both have a formal and topical tension. They use hyperbole and iambic trimeter to create the structure. Marlowe attempts to seduce his lover with gifts and fantasies. Marvell, on the other hand, is focused on the immediate physical. This allows you to compare two claims on the nature love. One is whether it’s more passionate when imagined in the future as a calm, peaceful union, while the other is when it’s physically realized in the present.


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