Life in the seventeenth century can be described as violent. After Queen Elizabeth’s death, James I, her successor created disorder when he wanted everyone to be Anglican. This soon led to the beheading of his successor, King Charles I. Throughout this century England saw many different rulers and seven civil wars. During the last half of the century, London survived an outbreak of a bubonic plague and a fire that destroyed a large part of the city. The recovery of these disasters started the rebuilding of the seventeenth century.
This era was also a time of literature. Many poets expressed their feelings of the century on paper. For example, the metaphysical poet, John Donne, expresses his emotions in Sonnet 10. Hey says in this poem “Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men, and dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell….” He is saying that when a person dies they die exposed to the poison, war and sickness of this time. Metaphysical poetry is characterized usually by its style rather than its content, and many metaphysical poets use metaphors, allusions and puns. They are also known to use a lot of intellectual writing and surprise the reader by making them notice something they never thought about before. Another poet of this time was John Milton.
As a Puritan poet, his poems were characterized by writing about the hard times of life, but always expressing that one can live his life for God. This reflects how Puritans survived the seventeenth century by turning to their religion during the difficult times of their life. He expresses this best in his poem “On His Blindness” on lines 9-11. He states ” God doth not need Either man’s work or His own gifts; who best Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best.” What he means by this is that he believes that God doesn’t need man’s work, but He wants men to live for Him. The third type of poetry during this era was Cavalier poetry.
Richard Lovelace uses this style of writing. The cavalier style is very carefree and full of grace and charm. Lovelace reflected the era with the best attitude he could. For example he always looked at the better side of things, like in his poem “To Althea, From Prison.” “If I have freedom in my love and in my soul am free, Angels alone, that sore above, enjoy such liberty.” He wrote this while in prison about his love, and even though he was locked up he knew his soul was free and no one could stop him from loving. All these poets expressed the era they were living in in different styles, views, and attitudes.
In conclusion, the seventeenth century impacted the poetry of John Donne, John Milton, and Richard Lovelace. The many changes and chaos also reflected the many styles of writings and ways these poets and many other people saw life.