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Compare and contrast these pre 1914 poems about women and sex

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  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2758
  • Category: Poems Sex

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Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘To his Coy Mistress’ and ‘The Beggar Women’, written by William King, are both poems written around the seventeenth century and they reflect the roles of women at the time. As it was a patriarchal society, women were considered to be less important than men and this comes through in both of the poems. Although they differ in many ways and vary in their styles of writing, both are trying to get across the same message. Andrew Marvell wrote the poem ‘To his Coy Mistress’ and it is true to the standards of women during this period of time.

Marvell was also a politician so his natural talent for arguing comes through in the text. The narrator of it is the man in the poem and, although the readers do not know his name, a lot of information about him can be found in the poem. He is of a higher social class because he is obviously well educated. He knows a lot of facts about other countries, and his language suggests that he is quite posh and higher up in society. The woman who he is talking to has no voice, because in the period of time that this poem was written, it was a patriarchal society and men ruled women.

Marvell made it so the woman did not speak so it indicated towards her being easily persuaded, and also she would have been brought up not to show her feelings. The structure of the poem is effective because the regular rhythm and rhyming couplets help to keep the argument moving, and support the logic and points that the narrator is trying to get across. In the poem there are rhyming couplets. Every two lines rhyme, for example, “For, lady, you deserve this state; Nor would I love at lower rate. ” The effect of this is that the poem is easy to read and there’s a constant rhythm in it, which would be useful for persuading the woman.

This poem is split into three sections, and each one has different tones and themes. The first stanza is where the man is praising the woman, and making her start to like him more. The imagery used is to do with rivers, as he says, “Thou by the Indian Ganges’… Humber would complain. ” He is referring to her beauty, saying that she is naturally beautiful, whilst describing himself as the plain and ordinary river Humber. Rivers go on forever, so he could be suggesting that his love for her is ever lasting.

On the other hand, he uses the phrase, “long love’s day. A day is not a very long time to love somebody, so the readers could notice that he is not going to be faithful to her and will probably leave when he had got what he wants. This sort of thing was typical at the time. Also, there are a lot of references to time here, such as, “I would; Love you… conversion of the Jews. ” In this short extra t from the poem, he says that he has loved her ten years before the flood, which is meaning the flood as in Noah’s Ark: in other words, since the beginning of time.

He also says that he will love her till the conversion of the Jews, which will never happen, so it really suggests that he will love her forever. These sorts of things would probably make the girl feel very flattered, and that was the man’s intention. These phrases are also quite biblical language too. In this section, a lot of hyperbole is used, which although is quite unbelievable to the readers, the girl in the poem, who would probably be young and inexperienced, would feel very flattered and would probably want to have sex with him.

An example of the phrases used is, ‘A hundred years should go… forehead gaze. ” She seems to need a lot of persuading which suggests that she is of a higher class, because she seems to deserve to be praised. However, in the second section, this all changes. The tone of this stanza is the opposite of before, as here the man talks about death and decay. The first word, “But”, indicates a change in direction and he begins to talk about how time is going quickly. He says, “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”, which is a metaphor, but it is also associated with fighting.

Chariots are imagery of Roman times, and suggest war. This phrase is used because both people are almost fighting metaphorically, as they both want different things. The man also mentions, “Deserts of vast eternity”, which contrasts with the imagery of rivers in the first part. He is saying that when they die, they will not be together so the might as well seize the day and do it now. The man appears to be quite shallow, and only concerned with her looks. It says, ‘Thy beauty shall no more be found’ which means that when she dies, she will not be beautiful and nobody would want her then.

He is trying to scare her, and make her want to do it now while people will still want her. He has no respect for her feelings, and talks mostly about her death and not his own. The whole section is trying to frighten her, and force her into doing what he wants to do. The tone of this section is quite aggressive and it suggests that he does not really like her as much as he says, or he would not treat her like this. Since the third and final section begins with, “Now, therefore,” the readers can tell that the man is making his conclusion now.

The language is this section is very persuasive and powerful, and he is trying to get her to seize the day (carpe diem). He goes about it quite intelligently, became first he talks just about her, indicating that she should give in to her desire and do what she wants while she can. Then he starts to use words like “we” and “our”, as if he is sub-consciously bringing her around to his way of thinking. The word ‘fires’ indicates desire, heat and passion, which are sexual terms. However, the word ‘soul’ suggests death, as if he is reminding her again that time is moving so they should just do it.

The man uses the phrase “iron gates of life” and it could mean that if they had a child, that would be where it came from. If they did do it, the woman would probably end up being pregnant but the man would have nothing to do with it then, so he would have no responsibility. The last two lines of the poem, “Thus, thought we cannot make our sun; Stand still, yet we will make him run” could have two meanings. On one hand, it could mean that they could escape time, and let themselves control it instead of having it control them.

On the other hand, it could be a pun if you replaced the word “sun” with “son”. It could again suggest that they would end up having a child through this. It could also be a metaphor, suggesting that the two of them together would be brighter and powerful, like the sun. The rhythm and rhyming couplets in this section make it all flow smoothly, which could suggest that the man is trying to persuade the woman that the whole thing would go smoothly if they just did it. The second poem is called ‘The Beggar Woman’ and it was written by William King.

It is a narrative poem that tells a simple story with a twist. It tells that tale of a poor beggar woman tricking a rich squire into taking her baby, whist he think he is getting her to sleep with him. The poem is structured quite differently to the first poem, because there are not separate stanzas. As it is telling a story, there is a beginning, middle and end, and it is all together and planned. There are rhyming couplets used which make the poem easy to read, and also there are ten syllables and five stresses in each line which help keep the rhythm in the poem going.

The first section of the poem describes how the two characters meet. The readers know that the man is of a higher social class because only men rich enough for horses would be able to go out hunting. The readers also know that the young girl is poor and homeless because she is described as “A beggar”. This section reflects mens’ views of women at the time, because she is being portrayed as an animal. This point is illustrated by the quote, “.. had other game in view. ” It is suggesting that just because she is not rich, she should be treated like an animal.

Also, “game” in hunting needs to be chased and caught, just like a woman. As in the first poem, there is a pun. It says, “.. the hare pursue”, and although it could be referring to the animal that he is hunting, it could also be seen as ‘her’, meaning the woman. The poet, William King, seems to have some compassion towards the lower classes, because he describes the beggar woman in a polite way, such, as, “.. her cheeks were fresh, and linen clean. ” This could mean that he felt sorry for the woman that were cast out because of their background, and that could be why he wrote this poem.

The second section is quite long and could be described as the middle of the story. It begins with, “She needed not much courtship to be kind”, which means that she did not need persuading. Women of lower classes did not deserve courtship or extended relationships, simply because they were considered less important than richer women. However, once the whole poem has been read, it becomes clear that she only went along with it because she had a plan. The phrase, “.. she trots on behind” lets the readers know that the girl appears to be quite meek and polite, whilst the man is superior and powerful.

It would make the man think that he was in control, but really the woman had a cunning plan. She has a baby bound to her back, which she calls “little Bobby”. The name indicates that she really cares about the child, but the man refers to him as “it”. This shows that he does not even care for the baby, and does not even consider him to be human. This is ironic as he actually ends up with the baby at the end. Also, it says that little Bobby was, “to her shoulders bound”, and this is a metaphor, because having a baby when you were not married in this period of time would cause you to be cast out.

The baby would have been a huge weight emotionally and physically to the woman. During this section, the woman appears to be looking out for the man’s needs, such as offering him a secluded and private place, and saying that if the baby cried, he would attract the company that the squire left behind. However, she is not caring for him as it would appear, but she is really putting together all the pieces of her plan. She goes about it in quite a smart way, because her language sub-consciously brings him around to doing what she wants, whilst he thinks that he is getting his own way.

He believes that since he is such a rich and respectable man, a poor beggar woman would never try and trick him in any way, which shows how arrogant and over-confident he is. The last line of the second section is, “Mighty well, sir! Oh Lord! If tied to you! ” It seems like this idea is all new to the woman but really it was what she wanted all along. The third section is the ending of the poem, and it describes the major twist is the story. The pace of the poem speeds, and it reflects the actions of the woman as she needed to move faster to complete her plan before the man realized what was going on.

She ties the baby on to the men’s back “with speed incredible. ” The words “throws” and “gentle toss” suggest that although the woman does care for the baby, she is keen to get rid of it as soon as possible and will be delighted when it has gone. This would be because she would have been treated really unfairly because of it and her life would be a lot better when she no longer had him. The readers know that the man is quite nai?? ve and foolish because of the phrase, “The gentleman had scarce got time to know”.

It suggests that the woman worked very quickly, but also he would not have expected her to do anything so sneaky because he obviously thought of himself as better than her. The last four lines of the poem, “Sir, good bye… how you’ll keep this”, are quite amusing, because they create surprise. She is indicating that before he thinks about sleeping with another single woman, he should thing about the consequences and responsibilities the woman would have to put up with. She is also showing him how hard a child is to look after.

The readers can tell that although the poet is a man, he was aware of the way women were treated at the time and he made the poem so that the readers were respectful of the cunning and brave plan. It was unusual at the time for a man to respect a woman, especially women of lower classes, and that is what makes this poem so special. The upper class man thought that he was in control, but he is outwitted by the lowly beggar woman, which creates a humorous twist. It makes the readers wonder what happened next. ‘To his Coy Mistress’ and ‘The Beggar Woman’ have some similarities.

For one, they both feature men trying to persuade women to have sex with them, which shows the attitudes towards women at the time, and how most of the time, they were not seen as humans, but as prey. Also, neither of the men cares about the consequences of sex, as if the woman involved became pregnant, they would not be around so therefore they would have nothing to do with the baby. However, although the poems are fairly similar, there are many differences too. Firstly, in the first poem, the woman does not have a voice, but the girl in the second poem does.

This could suggest that the first poet had less respect for women. Secondly, the woman in ‘The Beggar Woman’ has obviously had sex before, as she has a baby, but the girl in ‘To his Coy Mistress’ is a virgin. This becomes clear because it says in the poem, “That long-preserved virginity”. Thirdly, the second poem has more of a moral, which is to think about the responsibilities of having sex. Also, there are changes in the language between to the two poems, because in the first one, a lot of threatening and frightening language is used along with the gentle and complimentary words.

In the second poem, there is no aggressive language, and this could be because ‘The Beggar Woman’ is supposed to be a more light-hearted and fun poem. Lastly, there are differences between the two women because of their social classes. The girl in ‘To his Coy Mistress’ is obviously rich and of a higher class, so she would be less vulnerable than the woman in the second poem, as she would be more respected and worthy of courtship. On the other hand, the beggar woman in the second poem would have been physically and socially vulnerable because she would have been looked down upon.

However, as they were both women, they still would not have been given all the rights they deserved. After studying both poems, I have noticed that they both get across the seriousness of how women were treated in this period of time, but in different ways. ‘The Beggar Woman’ uses humour and tells a story in a fun way, whilst on the other hand, ‘To his Coy Mistress’ is about how different social classes of women are treated differently. I have come to the conclusion that the second poem is best for earning women respect, but both contain equally as important messages.

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