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A Contrast of Lovers An Analysis of “To His Coy Mistress” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

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James B.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Behind Marvell's poetry
  3. The different structures of every poem
  4. The tone of each poem
  5. The speaker in Marvell's poem
  6. To roll of the sweetness and strength
  7. The stress on patience
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

Is it better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all? When considering the abstractness and relativity of love, poetry is an art form unrivaled. T.S. Eliot and Andrew Marvell, each poets of incredible vision, analyzed love in two entirely different lights while concurrently capturing identical aspects. One of Eliot's earliest poems, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," stars a lonely, brooding speaker incapable of mustering up the courage to pursue love. In Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," the poem features one sly speaker attempting to woo a young woman into bed. Both poems analyze the topic of love, and more importantly, its elusiveness. T.S. Eliot was a young man when he wrote his poem in the early twentieth century. Andrew Marvell, generally recognized as a pious Anglican Christian poet, published his surprisingly out of character poem posthumously. Why is it that these two poems, entirely different in everything from construct to tone to time period, are capable of capturing the demons and trials man must overcome when pursuing love? They are each writers with command over a variety of poetic tools. Each alludes to Classical and Biblical references, and each is unique in its perspective. The speakers in both poems have the same goal, but only Marvell is directed towards an actual person. On the other hand, the fictitious Prufrock of Eliot's design is introverted.

[...] Despite "To His Coy Mistress," most of Andrew Marvell's work had religious themes and great respect for Christian doctrine. As Bruce King writes, "It is not necessary to resort to a theory of artistic impersonality, or to assume that Marvell was enjoying a pagan holiday, to find a place for To his Coy Mistress within the allegorical imagination" (Marvell's Allegorical Poetry, 66). The design of this poem was to employ Christian elements in such a way that it would ironically promote wholly non-Christian themes such as impatience, carnal sin, and a biblically Satanic approach to corruption. [...]


[...] This introverted image of a lonely shell in a massive empty sea further conveys his submissiveness to an intimidating society, and lack of courage to pursue the love he admires so dearly throughout his monologue. He compares himself to Lazarus, a man returned from the dead (l. 94). This allusion, as one of Derek Stoles' students puts it, "is hardly going to impress any woman he might want to date" (The Prufrock Makeover, 60). To contrast, Marvell writes in a positive tone. [...]

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