The themes of Love, Life and Death, the concept of God take a special place in the poetry. A great deal of poets and poetesses developed these vital themes in their literary works. Moreover, each of the poets tried to represent his own philosophical thought concerning this or that concept.
My goal in this essay is to examine the themes of Love, Life and Death and the concept of God in the poems of such highly gifted poets as Alan Seeger, John Betjeman, Emily Dickinson and Andrew Marvell.
The poem I Have a Rendezvous with Death written by the American poet Alan Seeger develops the themes of Life and Death. It is known that the poet took part in the war actions during the World War I. Of course, he knew a lot about the horrors of war. That is why the themes of Life and Death in this poem are represented through the eyes of a brave soldier who had “a rendezvous with Death” quite often. Alan Seeger personalizes Death. Moreover, he draws the contrast between the image of Spring and the the concept of Death:
I Have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
The poet does not afraid of Death. He is ready to meet Death “at some disputed barricade” when “Spring comes back with rustling shade”, when “apple blossoms fill the air”. It means the poet is a brave soldier. He knows that each battle can be the last for him. He knows that Death is near and can lead him “into dark land”. Only God knows “tweer better” to meet “the blissful sleep”. The poet uses a lot of stylistic devices which make his language colorful such as epithets, metaphors, personification, repetitions, assonance and others.
The poem In Westminster Abbey written by the famous English poet of the 19-th century John Betjeman represents several themes which are closely connected with the concept of God, the meaning of Life and Death. The poet shows the readers a woman who came to the the church to pray. She does not pray, she talks to God. Probably, this Lady belongs to the upper class as she thinks too much of herself. However, she came to the church to ask for protection. She is afraid of Death:
But, gracious Lord, whate’er shall be,
Don’t let anyone bomb me. (Betjeman 74)
She worries about her country and the position of the Forces:
Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand…
She asks God to protect the Forces “in all their fights”. The poet uses ironic language what proves the fact that the poet’s relation to religion is disrespectful. The Lady does not pray, she commands God. She is a selfish person who thinks only about herself. She says:
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date. (Benjeman 75)
The poem is written in the form of hymn what gives a rather unpleasant attitude. The Lady’s relation to the church, to God and to other spiritual things is rather scornful.
The third poem which will be discussed in this paper is “Because I Could not Stop for Death” written by Emily Dickinson. The poetess develops the theme of Death in a different way. She represents her character’s journey with Death, that is personified. This literary work is a psychological one as it makes the readers feel the coming of Death, and value their Life. The main character of the poem has no fear. Her behavior proves that she is ready to meet Death and to have a journey “in the carriage”:
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me… (Dickinson 3)
The main idea of the poetess in this literary work is to prove the fact that Death is inevitable. Everybody in this world will meet Death. However, nobody knows weather Death stands for immortality or it is just “the end”. Dickinson’s character moves “toward eternity”:
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity. (Dickinson 4)
There are some literary devices such as alliteration, metaphors, personification which help the readers to feel the atmosphere of the poem.
The poem To His Coy Mistress written by Andrew Marvell develops the theme of Love and the theme of Death which can put the end to Love. This lyrical poem is considered to be a metaphysical poem as it has all the distinctive features of this type of poetry including comparisons and contrasts, crude imagery, exaggeration, logical argument. In this poem, there are two characters – a young man and a lady. The speaker tells his mistress that he wishes they have more time to love each other. Unfortunately, Life is short and Death is forever. He tells about his sexual desires to this lady who is virgin:
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
The speaker wants to persuade the lady that they should make love while they are still young. The poet uses a great deal of hyperboles in order to show the intentions and feelings of his character:
A hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart. (Marvell 34)
The major idea of the poet is to show the irresistible desire of the young man to have sex with some young lady. The poet describes the young man’s feelings, emotions and different reasons which he uses to persuade the lady.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the themes of Love, Life and Death, and the concept of God can be represented by the poets in different ways. The most important thing is that although the above mentioned poems were written a long time ago, they have a lot of ideas which can be easily related to out present time. The passionate sexual desire of the young man, thoughts about Life and Death, disrespectful relation to the church, the brave soldier’s waiting for Death – all these facts are connected with our modern age.
Betjeman, J. Collected Poems. John Murray. 2006. Print.
Dickinson, E. The Complete poems of Emily Dickinson. Back Bay Books. 1987. Print.
Marvell, A. Marvell: Poems. Everyman’s Library. 2004. Print.
Seeger, A. Poems. Kessinger Publishing. 2003. Print.