Life and death are weighty issues and throughout the body of literature we are studying, there are many approaches poets take to explore these topics. Some hold to the positive aspects of living life to its fullest while others speak of the mighty and dreadful feeling resulting from death. The two poems by Robert Herrick and John Donne are all timeless work of art showing personality of the poets. The authors have many differences and similarities in the way the tackle the weighty issue of death. Many comparisons and contrasts can be made in their poems “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time” and “Death, Be not proud” respectively. Death is their major concern but they tackle it in different points of view.
In Donne’s “Death be not proud,” death is apostrophized and directed as though the author was addressing it as a person rather than an abstract. The speaker remonstrates with death in a manner that does not display pride just as humans do to one another when they hail them as dreadful. Line 1 and 2 speaks of death as neither worthy of fear and awe or all powerful (Bloom, 15). On the other hand, Herrick does not address death but speaks to people about death. He tells us that when we get old, we may regret not to experience some things we ought to have earlier in life. Through his poem, he encourages the virgins to go out and live their life to the fullest (Schickele, 30). This is because they are young and will only be young once in their life time. He advises them that even if enjoying life means enjoying the beauty of the opposite sex, “then be not coy, but use your time” (Schickele, 30). He asks why one should waste the best period of their life when one looks better than they are going to be tomorrow. When youth is gone, it is gone forever, and one only has the rest of the life to look back on the things not accomplished.
Herrick does not only concentrate on sexual aspect of humanity but also seeks to make a point about the nature of our existence and the way in which we use life when we are alive. Herrick uses the sun to describe life and its setting to symbolize life coming to an end. Death is strongly used to enhance his “carpe diem” theme. To the virgins, he composes four stanzas consisting of four lines with singe sentences that answer the question why virgins must enjoy their youth (Schickele, 31). The poem employs rhymes and rhyming patterns to stress his main point. This is achieved by favoring the trochaic foot, the unit of two syllables where the first syllable is stresses while the second is unstressed. On the contrary, Donne achieves his intention by using a style of verse known as metaphysical poetry (Bloom, 16). He employs usual verb forms, surprising metaphorical conceits and complex figures of speech in order to stress his point on death.
To Donne, death appears to have concurred and cannot claim his life. He personifies death in line one where he dignifies it by a proper noun. He also uses a capitalized name in the opening line of the sentence. He calls death a slave forced to bid by fate, kings, chance and desperate men (Bloom, 16). It is forced to live in the slave quarters with roommates like sickness and prison wars. He further explains that drugs distilled of poppies and charms or spells by magicians are capable of encouraging sleep that is better than that of death. He says that no base person should swell with pride at the might and powers of death.
Death is the major concern in the two poems but the poets have used different points of view to illustrate this. Donne and Herrick have tackled life and death as weighty issues and have used different approaches to explore the topics. The two poems are all timeless work of art showing personality of the poets. The authors Robert Herrick and John Donne have many differences and similarities in the way the tackle the weighty issue of death. One sees is something that should not be feared while the other tells readers to enjoy life before they pass on.