Glencoe Literature American Literature English Literature Essay

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This study is therefore aimed at showing the points of comparison and contrast of some of the great poets the history has made, John Donne, Holy Sonnet X and Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, VII with a focus on the thematic analysis of "DEATH" accounted in their poetry through comparison and contrast which means closely identifying the similiraties and differences of two distinct poems with the same prevailing theme.

A number of similarities have been taken into account despite the differences. For instance, the strong, senual style in love and death of a loved one or a good friend. On the other hand, the conception of death and its aftermath makes Donne totally different from Sir Alfred who viewed this topic as an approach to question Christian belief about the issues of death on the basis of skepticism and new scientific theories.

One of the anonymous authors defines death as one of the most notable themes prevailing in any written poetry. It says therein the article that perhaps no other theme elicits such deep and varied emotions from individuals across the globe. It's no wonder, then, that poets through the ages-no matter the time or place-have sought to address death through poetry. For poetry enables any poet to meditate upon and emotionally and lyrically respond to death, whether the death of a stranger, a loved one, oneself, or just the fact of death itself.


According to Glencoe Literature "American Literature", the analysis of theme involves working the concept, thought, opinion or belief that the author expresses. It is very common (and helpful) to consider the theme when analyzing another aspect of literature rather than on its own. The theme of a work is the main message, insight, or observation the writer offers.

Dr. Davis said that, the importance of theme in literature can be overestimated; the work of poetry is more than just the theme. However, the theme allows the author to control or give order to his perceptions about life.

This study shows the perceptions of death as in agreement time, character, setting, cultural rearing of two distinct yet very prominent poets, John Donne and Alfred Tennyson.

Alfred Tennyson was born on the fifth of August in 1809 and grew up in a small village of Somersby, Lincolnshire. Throughout his childhood his father, George Clayton Tennyson, suffered from deteriorating mental health, epileptic fits, and alcoholism. Tennyson's father went to Cambridge to study for the church, eventually becoming responsible for the Somersby Rectory. Alfred and his siblings were known to play in a brook at the bottom of the Rectory garden, and it was the scene of castle-building and mock-tournaments. Elizabeth Fytche Tennyson, Alfred's mother, loved poetry and often read aloud to her children James Beattie's Minstrel, James Thomson's The Seasons, or the work of Felicia Hemans.

The metaphysical poet and clergyman John Donne was one of the most influential poets of the Renaissance. He was just as famous for his witty cutting poetry as he was for his enthralling sermons. John was born to a prominent Roman Catholic family from London in 1572. Not a healthy child, John Donne would lead a life plagued with illness.

He received a strong religious upbringing until his enrollment at the University of Oxford at the age of 11. After only three years at Oxford it is believed that he transferred to the University of Cambridge for another three years of study, never obtaining a degree at either college. In 1590 John made a decision that would shape his life: he converted to Anglicanism.

With his newfound faith to support him, John moved to London to study law at Lincoln's Inn. With a promising legal career in front of him, he joined the second Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, in a naval expedition to Cadiz, Spain. Sometime during the return trip in 1598, he was appointed to be the private secretary for Anne More, niece of the Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton. Donne excelled at caring for his charge - so well that in 1601 they were secretly married. After Egerton relieved Donne of his position he was imprisoned for his amorous actions. He later wrote about his experience in poetry, "John Donne - Ann Donne - Undone."


Death in poetry is greatly influenced by author's bold sadness due to the loss of some essential part of one's life.

Death is no more a thing than the mind or spirit is a thing, notwithstanding we change our minds and raise our spirits. So how are we to proceed? This is a very challenging question for those who are writing poems about this theme. Death is a status that must be proven on the basis of words of grief or sorrow about how one fears for the life of someone or his or her life. This eventually narrates the inspiration of a great poet to write a great piece of poetry about death.

In accordance with the essay posted online by Miguel G. L., & Vicente F, L. (2008), that a man is a creature that knows he is going to die. It is this fact of human existence that arguably accounts for the depth of human consciousness and the scope of human culture. In any event, this situation is a compelling reason to appeal to literature as a philosophical resource for understanding death as defining feature of human life. This reality awakens the understanding of many poets to vividly picture the image of death in any piece of poetry.

SUBJECT OF POEMS: Making Sense of Death

According to Nina Baym, one of the central tasks of literature is to impose a structure on life and death, giving meaning to both. Indeed, literature as a discipline aims just as certainly as science does to understand the world in which we live and to interpret our own role as participants in the human condition.

The difficulty for the non-specialist is understanding the various ways in which literature works and, once more, this is particularly true when it comes to the question of understanding across time and space.


According to Stephen Greenblatt, when Alfred, Lord Tennyson came to write In Memoriam, one of the most experimental and yet most influential poems of the century, he already had refined his characteristic basic poetic structure and needed a theme that would permit him to apply his gifts to a major form. Arthur Henry Hallam's death in 1833 provided Tennyson with one by forcing him to question his faith in nature, God, and poetry. The whole In Memoriam A.H.H.was completed in the year 1849.

According to Paul Lauter, "Holy Sonnet X" in a collection of nineteen sonnets by John Donne (1572-1631). However, its title came to be known as "Death, Be Not Proud" (after the first four words of the poem). It was written between 1601 and 1610--the exact year is uncertain--and published after Donne died.


According to Ford & Christ, during the Victorian Period, Alfred, Lord Tennyson went through long held and comfortable religious beliefs which fell under great scrutiny. The associations with his memory his house, the fields where we walked together are now darkened by his death. But that gift of poetry in me whose productions pleased him, will again be exercised by me in writing this elegy, to be dedicated to his memory.

According to Jem Bloomfield, the opening line, "Death be not proud", is an apostrophe or address to an abstract figure. Donne favours apostrophes and dramatic monologues, which give an immediacy and urgency to his rhetoric - in his career as a churchman, Donne was a famous preacher, so it's no surprise that many of his poems sound like dramatic speeches. In rhetorically picking on death, Donne is taking on a big adversary, though not entirely without precedent.

He starts the poem in utilizing the figurative language of personification, " Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so". In using this technique the author is able to apply human qualities which make Death tangible and a being in which the narrator can entertain an argument and eventually win his case based upon Christian philosophy. Additionally, in the personification of treating Death, the embodiment of non-living as a living being, the author has also utilized the literary term irony. It can be seen that through the use of personification and irony John Donne has set the stage for Death to become just as undone as any man.


The Holy Sonnet written by Donne criticizes Death throughout the sonnet. Donne uses different techniques to show his interpretation of Death.

Holy Sonnet X is anthropomorphizing Death, and addressing him as an equal, or indeed, as it becomes apparent later, as an inferior. Donne is saying that Death likes to think of himself as powerful and terrifying, and indeed some people have called him that, but he is not so in truth.

Based on this sonnet, it is about making death seem not-so-scary. We could say that you should care about the poem because it succeeds in this goal, but quite frankly, we're still afraid of death after reading it. Donne wrote a lot of poems and sermons about religion and the afterlife, but we don't think the average reader picking up this sonnet will be cured of his or her anxious thoughts about mortality.

Meanwhile, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote In Memoriam, following the death, at just 22, of his close friend, Arthur Hallam. Hallam was a brilliant young man in his own right and it seems clear that Tennyson expected to spend the rest of his life in close contact with him. The deeply felt grief makes it a personal account, but deep feeling refined into literature.

Tennyson goes on to face an even worse possibility than a lonely universe, that being the possibility of an existence without meaning. In this view, human life is not eternal, and everything returns to dust forever (Death). God is like "some wild poet, when he works / Without a conscience or an aim" . Why even consider such a God, Tennyson asks, and why not end life all the sooner if this vision of God is true. He answers himself in the next poem, however, as he banishes such a possibility on the evidence that love could never exist in such a reality.

Style and Theme of Poetry

John Donne and Alfred Tennyson both have a very informal and yet very structured style of writing that may not somehow easily understood by the readers.

John Donne

According to Gail Cohen, English writer and theologian John Donne composed memorable poems focused on death, love, spirituality and sex that ranged in style from satire to love poems and from sermons to elegies. His writing style was a perfect fit for a man plagued by death in both his personal and professional life. The 17th century writer was declared one of the first metaphysical poets to set pen to paper over the course of the 59 years of his life.

Alfred Tennyson

According to Encarta Encyclopedia, few poets have produced acknowledged masterpieces in so many different poetic genres as Tennyson. He furnished perhaps the most notable example in English letters of the eclectic style. His consummately crafted verse expresses in readily comprehensible terms the Victorian feeling for order and harmony.


Distinct Views about death have certainly prevailed in two distinct utterly beautifully written poems. For Donne, death is a total poser in this poem, like a schoolyard bully who turns out not to be so tough, after all. The speaker even makes death out to be a good thing, because it leads to the new life of Christian eternity. Plus, everyone bosses Death around, from kings to suicidal people. Finally, a lot of the poem's wit comes from combining literal and symbolic uses of the words "death" and die." This literal implications of death is signaled as way of knowing how death could literally eats people who are so terrified about its aftermath.

"Metaphysics" is the study of the ultimate reality beyond everyday world, including questions about God, creation, and the afterlife. Donne is a poet known for using symbols and images from the "physical" world to spin complicated arguments about such "metaphysical" concerns. Poets who are like him are known especially for the use of wit, which involves a lot of wordplay. When someone makes fun of another and that person finds the perfect comeback, that's wit. After reading this poem, a reader will be convinced: if Donne was alive today, he'd be a master of the comeback.

On the other hand, the most obvious definition of death is usually taken from its aftermath. The people who are left behind are inspired to write something about it as in the case of Alfred Lord Tennyson who characteristically employs the imagery of natural elements in order to portray his feelings and emotions after the death of his close friend. Perhaps the most poignant of these images is that of the wind, represented in many ways throughout the poem, and linked closely to the concept of calm despair' and wild unrest.'