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Home » , , » Discuss the imagery and conceits traceable in "To His Coy Mistress" and "The Definition of Love"?
A conceit is basically a simile or a comparison between two things of different kinds. In a conceit the difference between the two things, compared, is so great that the reader is always fully conscious of it even while he agrees to the likeness, implied by the poet. According to Dr. Johnson, in a conceit, the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together. This kind of comparison is highly exaggerated, fantastic and far fetched, and it gives rise to an image. The metaphysical conceits startle and amuse the readers. They are a part of the poet's technique of communication, application and persuasion. Discuss the imagery and conceits traceable in "To His Coy Mistress" and "The Definition of Love"?
imagery and conceits traceable


Being a follower of Donne, Andrew Marvell could write in the metaphysical style of Donne without imitating his brutality, and he attained something of Herrick's witty delicacy without his affectation. Marvell was an extra-ordinarily versatile. Donne only succeeded when he was grave, Herrick when he was gay, but Marvell wrote well in any mood. A remarkable example of this is found in " To His Coy Mistress", which begins in a mood of playful banter and end in tragic fury. Whatever the mood is the poet is found dallying with poetic conceits in pure and natural English.

There are a number of concrete pictures in "To His Coy Mistress", and a whole series of metaphysical conceits. The very notion of the lover that, having enough space and time at their disposal, they would be able to wander as far apart as the Indian Ganges and the English Humber is fantastic. Then the lover's saying that he would spend hundreds and thousands of years in admiring and adoring various parts of her body, constitutes another conceit. The picture of time's winged chariot hurrying near to overtake the lovers vividly brings before our minds the rapid passing of time. Here an abstract idea has been made concrete by means of a metaphor, and this is a realistic picture in contrast to the metaphysical conceits mentioned above, though there is a conceit in the image of Time as it has been compared to a winged chariot. The pictures of the woman lying in her grave and the worms attacking her long preserved virginity and her honour turning to dust are conceits because worms are here regarded as being capable of seducing a woman. In the concluding stanza also we find conceits. The mistress's willing soul is depicted as giving out instant fires at every pore and the lovers are imagined as rolling their strength and their sweetness into one ball and tearing their pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of life.

Similarly, there are a series of metaphysical conceits in "The Definition of Love". We discover a conceit when the poet says that his love was begotten by Despair upon Impossibility. The idea here simply is that the poet's love is unattainable, but in order to express this idea he personifies Despair and Impossibility, and imagines that his love was produced by their union. In the concluding stanza there is remarkable conceit. A union between two perfect lovers would be a fatal blow to the power of Fate. So Fate has placed these two lovers as far apart from each other as the North Pole and the South pole are from each other. Their true love may be interpreted as the "conjunction of the mind/And opposition of the stars". They are the pivot round which the whole world of love revolves but they can never come together. To be more clear, their love represents the union of minds, and it signifies the opposition which exists between stars situated opposite to each other.

To sum up, "To His Coy Mistress" and "The Definition of Love" contain a series of vivid and concrete images expressed by means of conceits. These conceits are not only fantastic but also highly intellectual.

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