A Valediction Forbidding Mourning vs. to the Virgins to Make Much of Time

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A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning vs. To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning by John Donne and To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick share similar writing forms and speakers, however, their symbolism and themes remain different. Herrick’s poem discusses the shortness of the human lifespan, optimistically emphasizing the idea of carpe diem, “seize the day”. On the other hand, Donne’s poem deals with a more serious subject, the separation of the human body and soul, and the picture of ideal true love. The two very diverse topics are likely due to the difference in poetry style that Herrick’s and Donne’s poems fell under. Herrick was a Cavalier poet and was known for breezy, light poetry emphasizing the carpe diem attitude in a flirtatious manner, while Donne belonged to the Metaphysical poets, and relayed on wit, paradox, and metaphysical conceit to convey the message of his poetry. Despite the difference in poetry style, both Herrick and Donne chose a similar speaker for their poems; the two poems are spoken by a man addressing a woman. The similarities and differences of the two poems are important in understanding the different writing styles of the poets during the time periods.

Herrick and Donne both utilize symbolism in their poems as a figurative language device to help the reader understand the message and theme of the poem. In the first stanza of To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, Herrick uses flowers to symbolize the shortness of human life, “And this same flower that smiles today/ Tomorrow will be dying” (4-5). Here Herrick explains that the brevity of a blossom is analogous to the shortness of human life; the carpe diem theme begins to arise as well. The second stanza continues with the introduction of a second symbol: the sun. Herrick writes that the “higher [the sun’s] a-getting” the “nearer he’s [the sun is] to setting” (6-8) to explain that the older a person becomes, the closer...
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