The Jacobean era is characterized by marvelous literary masterpieces by Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson and many other brilliant poets. It is important to note that the works created at that period can be regarded as similar since they were similar in terms of style and themes revealed.
Of course, each poet had his specific style and tried to look at some eternal themes (like love, life and death) from different perspectives. It is possible to compare two poems, “The Bait” by John Donne and “My Picture, Left in Scotland” by Ben Jonson, to feel the particular atmosphere of the late 16th and early 17th century.
It is necessary to note that the language used in the both poems is Modern English which had been formed by the late 16th century. The two poets resort to iambic lines. Notably, iambic lines were commonly used at that period. However, the two poems are a bit different as John Donne is more precise, so to speak.
The poet uses lines of similar length, whereas Ben Jonson creates variety of lines. Jonson is freer when it comes to form. It is possible to state that he is experimenting with form. Apart from this, it is necessary to note that Jonson’s style seems more intimate.
Notably, the two poems touch upon a very intimate theme, i.e. love to a woman. Perfect lines of Donne’s poem make it a perfect piece of poetry. However, Jonson’s lines can be seen as a kind of ideas of a man in love. Admittedly, ideas and dreams do not form perfect lines as they are simply ‘scattered’ in a man’s consciousness. Jonson’s dreams are ‘scattered’ in a very harmonious manner, though.
It is also necessary to take a closer look at the themes touched upon. Thus, the two poets write about love. They both strive to be loved by a particular woman. The both poets suffer as they are likely to be rejected. However, the theme is looked at from different angles.
Thus, Donne contemplates ways men try to win women’s hearts and the poet also concludes that men are more eager to win whereas women are often reluctant to be defeated. However, Jonson focuses on a very old idea that love is blind. The poet argues that the woman he loves only sees his drawbacks instead of listening to his passionate confessions.
As far as I am concerned, Jonson’s poem appeals to me more than that of Donne. I think Jonson is more intimate, in the first place. I think perfect lines indicate poet’s talent and precision. However, I’d rather read such passionate lines as Jonson’s poem about deaf love. Different length of the lines makes the poem really intimate and passionate. I guess this is more important for the poem, than the perfect form.
Apart from this, Jonson’s poem touches upon a very interesting idea about the nature of love. Everyone speaks of love being blind. However, I agree that love is rather deaf than blind as people tend to focus on external (physical) features. Jonson rightfully argues that it is much more important to see true emotions and feelings instead of focusing on good looks.
Thus, the poet manages to draw people’s attention to another aspect of the most important feeling in the world. As for me, this is the most important about poetry. Poems should make people see hidden meanings and different aspects of something seemingly known.