Donne / Marlowe Contrasted & Compared

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John Donne, a ‘metaphysical’ poet caught in between the ages of the Renaissance and the Romantic era, is a man who displays both great passion and great reservation in his works, wrote a poem by the title of “A Valedictorian: Forbidding Mourning” in which the speaker must part with his love. He calls for her not to mourn but, rather, to accept the reality of their situation and move on. This quite the opposite of a poem by Christopher Marlowe who wrote, in his short poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”, of a farmer, desperate for love who wishes nothing so much as to live together, never part, and flaunt their love everywhere. The two men seem to have differing views on the subject of love. One speaks of loss, the other of gain. One speaks of hiding their passion and the other speaks of dancing, singing, and fashioning beds from roses. But the two might not be as incompatible as one might think for a love which, for a time, may be strong and public may quickly turn astray into an affair of secrecy and frailty; such is the nature of love. Their differences set them apart, but the question is: how do their similarities bind them together? The first similarity between the two poets is also the most easily over-looked. It is difficult to consider the two men chronologically close, but that is precisely what they were. While separated by a number of years, the cultures they would both grow up in would still be very much alike. Both would have grown up in a time of change versus strong cultural traditions. While the Renaissance raged on about them, both Donne and Marlowe were writing from their hearts—rather than their heads. It’s this common inspiration and a common setting that first gives us a hint of where both the poets were coming from: and just how similar they were. Such examples of conflict between the culture (the mind) and the personal desire (the
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