UDE, Chiedozie Orji.
Non-African poetry, just as the name suggests, is poetry written by poets who come from other continents apart from Africa. These poems often talk about different things, depending on the particular genre the poem in question falls into. By genre here, we mean the type of poem. For example, a lyric poem may talk about love while an elegy, most certainly, will talk about death. The study of these poems is undoubtedly crucial to this course because these poems aid us students in knowing poems that are written by outsiders, and by extension, we know the ways of life of these outsiders by analyzing the thematic contents of these poems.
Of course, the non-African poems treated in this course have a lot in common. Chief of these things have to be the recurring theme of the destructive tendencies of time and the issue of sexual gratification. It is, however, the second of the two themes listed that will be considered in this essay. Hence, it is ideal to state here that this essay seeks to critically examine how some of the poems treated in this course portray man’s hunt for sexual gratification or satisfaction. In a bid to leave no stone unturned, key attention will be paid to the elements of form and content and how they help project the issue on ground.
Sexual gratification, as expressed through both poems, can be seen in the way both personas try to woo their ladies in a bid to have sexual relations with them. Both personas give several reasons why they believe having this amorous affair is important. Andrew Marvell’s persona uses the shortness of time to buttress his argument by telling his lady to cave in and enjoy the moment instead of rejecting his advances because very soon, she will not be as attractive as she is due to the effects of time on beauty — old age. John Donne, on the other hand, uses an incident of blood sucking by a flea to pass across his point. He tells his lover to be more accepting to their union because the flea has successfully sucked blood from both of them; thereby, metaphorically linking them in holy matrimony. He goes on to point out that since nothing happened to the flea, nothing will happen if she decides to consummate their union.
Of course, the theme of sexual gratification is a predominant theme in poems such as Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress” and John Donne’s “The Flea”. This theme is highlighted through the technicalities and content. For example, one can assume that their use of regular iambic metrical patterns — iambic tetrameter in “To his Coy Mistress” and the alternation between iambic tetrameter and pentameter in “The Flea” — suggest lightheartedness. And this lightheartedness, by extension, explains the two poet personas’ love for pleasure derived through sexual contact. Still on the technicalities, one can also say that the use of sonorous couplets in Andrew Marvell’s poem and John Donne’s regular rhyme scheme are significant to the building of sexual tension in the poem. This point can be reinforced by paying close attention to the musical quality they both express through their rhymes. Conclusively, because pleasant sounds such as music aid seduction, we can say the the rhythm and rhymes employed in these poems play a huge role in illuminating the theme of sexual gratification.
Also, these poets present man’s hunt for sexual satisfaction through their choice of words. The choice of words in both poems is simple enough and this makes much sense because their intentions are clearly stated to the objects of their affections; thereby, making it impossible for the ladies to misunderstand them. John Donne, for instance, uses the event of a flea sucking his persona’s lover’s blood to try to influence her to be intimate with him. To John Donne’s persona, the flea takes his lady’s blood without having to ask her out; thus, they should be able to have sexual contact without having to go through much troubles. The persona’s point is made manifest through the line below:
“Yet this enjoys before it woo…”
Furthermore, the use of words such as “maidenhead and marriage bed” help to reinforce the fact that the persona seeks to consummate the union with his lover.
In Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress”, the choice of words betrays the persona’s seductive tendencies. He presents a conditional situation where time is not a factor as seen in the lines below:
“Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.”
To the persona, if such a situation were to be possible, he would spend hundreds of years, patiently trying to win her love. But realistically speaking, such situation is hypothetical and thus does not portray life so he urges the lady to quickly accept his advances by stating, in no uncertain terms, what time does to everything — that is, very soon, the beauty of the lady will fade and all the things she holds dear will be no more.
Most certainly, one cannot fully discuss the issue of sexual gratification by paying attention only to the form and technicalities of the poems. To succinctly put it, the content (most especially the themes) is equally as important. In both poems, we have themes that help reinforce the issue on ground. Some of these themes are: seduction, lust, and marriage. All these themes will be briefly explained with regard to how they help highlight the central theme of sexual gratification.
Obviously, one theme that stands out is the theme of seduction. Logically speaking, the first step of many sexual relationships begins with seduction, and both poet personas are aware of this fact; thus, explaining why they go great lengths in the bid to win over their ladies. Andrew Marvell’s persona makes use of hyperboles in order to impress his lady, as seen in lines 7 to 20. When it seems like flowery words will not do the trick, the persona stoops so low by mentioning to the lady how time will destroy everything she holds dear if she refuses to spend her best days with him. John Donne, on the other hand, attempts to use a flea, which has successfully sucked blood from him and his lover, to convince his addressee to have sex with him because the flea symbolizes their union. So, one can emphatically say that the theme of seduction is crucial to understanding the theme of sexual gratification.
Closely following the theme of seduction are the themes of lust and marriage. Both personas are guilty of lust in that they view the ladies as sex objects. To them, premarital sex is not a big deal, so they implore the ladies to lose their virginities. Andrew Marvell’s persona is obviously the more ruthless of the two. He just aims to enjoy the moment with the lady and perhaps move on to someone else when he has satisfied his sexual urge. John Donne’s persona is not much better but he, at least, offers to marry the lady even if her parents are against the union.
Indeed, one cannot miss the various hints that point out at sexual gratification in these poems because they are clearly stated through elements of form such as meter, rhyme and diction, and through the themes projected in the poems. In fact, it is these elements that help make the argument, that these poems derive their origin in the hunt for sexual satisfaction, sustainable. In conclusion, this essay has made an attempt to analyse how the non-African poems treated in this course portrayed the issue of sexual gratification.