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Donne’s Angel and Marvell’s Mistress

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  1. Introduction
  2. The sexual encounter
  3. The worldview
  4. The worldly views in the peom
  5. Marvell's carnal love
  6. Donne's love
  7. Platonic ideal of the love of inner beauty
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

Donne's song ?Air and Angels? and Marvell's ?To His Coy Mistress? are both love poems. However, they are poles apart in their definitions of love. Donne sees his beloved as a mysterious presence whose body merely gives shape to the love he has felt before. Marvell sees the woman he addresses as physically beautiful, but does not give much thought to her other qualities. Instead, she is his partner as he strives after earthly pleasures.

[...] Therefore, Donne says that when he found the woman, he love ask, and now/ That it assume thy body I allow? 13). The physical side is merely ballast but even this solution is imperfect (15). Donne finds that even the sight of her hair overwhelms him and allows the physical to take precedence over his formerly spiritual love, saying, in nothing, nor in things/ Extreme and scatt'ring bright, can love inhere? 22). He admits that her physical charms have ?love's pinnace overfraught?, a feeling Marvell seems to share when he says that he would devote age at least to every part? of his mistress' body (18). [...]

[...] He was deeply stirred by his belief in the Incarnation; the poem and Angels? seems to adhere closely to that in its conceit of the spiritual love assuming the shape of a real woman. Donne sees his love as an enduring thing. He hopes the woman will love him in return, saying, as an angel, face and wings/ Of air, not pure as it /So thy love may be my love's sphere? (609, lines 23-25). He needs the woman's love to give his own a realm to govern. [...]

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