Caitlin Jeffery

Exploring the depths of digital literature

A Little Lusty

on February 19, 2013

Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress,” John Donne’s “The Flea,” and Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” all have a common theme of sex. They are about men who are either trying to convince a woman to have sex with them or letting women know they should make the most of their use while they are young.

I loved the men’s arguments for getting laid. Marcel’s poem is divided into three parts: 1) If only you would have sex with me 2) But life is short so we should have sex 3) Lets do it now and make the most of the time we have. Donne uses a flea biting the speaker and a woman as a tool to justify to the woman why she should have sex with the speaker. Their blood is already intermingled in the flea, so why not mix fluids through sex. When he tells her not to kill the flea because it will destroy the marriage of their fluids, she kills it and says nothing changed to which he rebuffs that there is obviously no harm to them from their fluids mixing so they should have sex. Herrick’s poem is more ambiguous. It is about a man telling girls to make the most of their use and have fun while they can. Then they should marry while in their prime because life is short and they don’t want to end up alone. It could be interrupted that girls should make the most of life’s pleasures before they a married and stuck with one person for the rest of their lives.

Marcel says “Had we but world enough, and time,/This coyness, lady, were no crime.” He is basically saying we don’t have time for you to be reluctant and is creating a sense of urgency to what he wants. He goes onto say if she keeps waiting, her beauty will be gone and she will die a virgin. The idea is that sex will allow them to carpe diem, which is what Herrick’s poem is about. Herrick states “this same flower that smiles today/Tomorrow will be dying.” Before your youth is gone and your beauty fades, you must seize the day. Interestingly, this idea isn’t applied to the men. None of them are worried about their youth or beauty fading.

The men really used their language to allude to a more dangerous meaning, especially in a time when all a woman really had was her purity. I wonder how many woman were taken in by their charms and how little harm actually came from those flea bites.



One response to “A Little Lusty

  1. I can’t help but smirk when reading these poems. Love poetry, especially of this “enticing” kind, has always struck me as little more than an elaborate pick up line. I’m reminded especially of “frontmen” in bands (I am one of these, admittedly). Like poets, there are those who are actual artists, but there are also those that use their talents for let’s say, more nefarious purposes. Their lyrics or voice or instrument is the snare, waiting to pull in any willing watcher who might swoon to the siren song. I hope a good number of women in the times of these poems had the decency to laugh a little at these poets, who were of course only writing about the purest of love. . .

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