Undertones of Carpe Diem in Cavalier and Metaphysical Poetry

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Cavalier and Metaphysical poetry are two emerging types of poetry styles that became more prevalent in 17th century England. The two forms of poetry are different in style, topic, and in form. Cavalier poetry has a rhyme scheme, while Metaphysical poetry does not. Yet, their themes are very different, one speaks about emotion while the other speaks more on comparisons. These two types of poems also have “seize the day” mentalities.

Cavalier poems, like Thomas Carew’s Ingrateful Beauty Threatened, have a set rhyme scheme. Thomas Carew’s poem is set in an ababcc scheme, also known as a Venus and Adonis stanza (Stanzas). In Metaphysical poems like John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 10, there is no indicated rhyme scheme throughout the entirety of the poem. The sonnet seems to have a set scheme in the beginning, but the form later dissipates as the poem goes on.

While reading many other cavalier poems, it is seen that there’s a common theme amongst each. They all pertain to life or a type of emotion. In Ingrateful Beauty Threatened, the angry emotions that the author shows is exemplified when he says that he “gave thee thy renown; thou hadst, in the forgotten crowd of common beauties, liv’d unknown” (Ingrateful,2-4). He shows an angry and snide tone towards Celia, that he made her what she is and that she was a nobody, and nobody would know about her if it wasn’t for him and his words. This tone is obvious until the last few lines of the poem, where his tone becomes remorseful and seemingly full of grief. Yet, metaphysical poems don’t rely on the same theme as cavalier poems do. These poems are full of irony and they consistently make unusual comparisons (Metaphysical Poets). In Holy Sonnet 10, the topic is death. The author states that death is not self-reliant, but rather it is “a slave to fate, kings, and desperate men” (Holy Sonnet 10,9). This is ironic because rather than death being its own entity, it is controlled by the decisions of other happenings. Death is controlled by whether a king dooms his subjects by killing them, by any man killing others, and fate or chance. We see the differences in tone and subject, while one talks about straight-forward feelings, the other relies on intellectual analysis of their subjects.

The one thing that ties these two types of poems is their “seize the day” mentality. In Robert Herrick’s To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, it speaks of the urgency every virgin should have to get married. They should get married before they become “the worse, and worst times still succeed the former” (To the Virgins,11-12), they should take advantage of their youth to get married before they become older and older, therefore making their way and condition of living worse! Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress, the “seize the day mentality” is tied into the theme of lack of time. The author shows a small dose of desperation to get his lover to stop being shy or “coy” because there isn’t enough time in the world for her to do so. If she pushes away her shyness he would take ages to love at “least every part” (To His Coy, 17) of her. He tells her that there is no time to waste and that with the time they have now, before her beauty fades and she passes away. Although the ending of the poem showed some tones of passion and slight gruesomeness, the carpe diem tone is incredibly prevalent.

These two poems are similar in one big way, their sense of “seize the day”. Yet, they have many differences in the way of tone, subject, and rhyme style. While Cavalier poems speak more on emotion and acknowledgement of feeling, Metaphysical poems touch base on comparisons between two unlike things. Although these poems are different in many different ways, their carpe diem attitude is what ties these two together.

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