A Poem Comparison of Donne's "Anniversary" and Jennings' "One Flesh"

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Read the two poems carefully, bearing in mind that they were written at different times by different writers and are open to different interpretations. Write a comparison of these two poems. In your answer you should consider the ways in which Donne and Jennings use form, structure and language to present their thoughts and ideas. You should make relevant references to your wider reading in the poetry of love (40 marks). John Donne’s ‘The Anniversary’ is all about the love the theoretical narrator and his object of love share. A year has passed, and everything has grown older, drawing closer to their end. In contrast, the one ageless thing is the unchanging love the poet shares with his lover. Although their bodies will be in separate graves when they die, their eternal souls will be reunited when they are resurrected. For now, the two are kings in their world of love, secure in their faithfulness, and he hopes that they will be together for 60 anniversaries. In the three stanza poem, the poet commemorates the first anniversary of seeing his beloved. He begins by using imagery from the political world: the royal court of “All Kings”. He juxtaposes this image with the supremacy of the “sun”, the true ruler of all mankind – without which the human race would die; this encompasses the highest concepts of the world. However, the poet then goes on to comment that even the mighty sun and the all-powerful kings have aged “a year” since he and his loved one “first one another saw”. Thus stating that the only thing not susceptible to “decay”; is the narrator and his loved one’s “love”: “our love hath no decay”. Their passion has “no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday” suggesting their mutual love is timeless and beyond the reach of mortality. This can be contrasted with Elizabeth Jennings’ poem “One Flesh”; the poet wonders about the relationship and separateness of her aged parents, now that the passion between them has ended: “lying apart now, each in a separate bed”. Although in Donne’s poem, it is clear the two lovers have been together longer than a year – “is elder by a year now than it was when thou and I first one another saw” – they have not been together as long as Jennings’ “father and…mother”, thus maybe it is impossible for love to last forever. The use of the word “now” in line one, stanza one of Jennings’ poem shows that the “cold” love between her parents was not always this way. The description of her father “with a book” until “late” and her mother “dreaming of childhood” shows each of them losing themselves in another world. Despite this each seems in waiting for the other to stir their lives into some sort of excitement: her “eyes fixed on the shadows ahead”; “the book he holds unread”. They seem physically, mentally and emotionally worlds apart. The “fire” which was once in the marriage of the mother and father in Jennings’ poem could be compared to that in the relationship between Donne and the object of his affections. Jennings compares a passionate marriage in youth, full of fire and ‘one flesh’, to a cold separate state in old age; could this be what is in store for Donne and his lover: despite their view of “death” being “no divorce”; it seems that is what Jennings’ parents once felt like. The hopefulness that Donne feels for the future is mirrored by Dante in his poem ‘La Vita Nuova’, in which he talks of meeting his partner as “a new life” written in the “book” which is his “memory” of their meeting. There are metaphors in both Donne’s and Jennings’ poem: Jennings’ talks of the gradual unnoticed effects of time, they are compared to the touch of a ‘feather’; her parents’ love and lust when younger is compared to a ‘fire’; within Donne’s poem he and his lover are said to be “Kings…upon Earth” because of their almighty love. A contrasting factor between the two poems is the tone; while Donne’s poem is hopeful for the future and what it holds, Jennings’ seems to speak with a sense of despair at times. This...
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