The following sample essay on His Coy Mistress discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” effectively explores the concepts of carpe diem and tempus fugit. On the surface the poem appears to be a comic story of young man attempting to seduce his mistress however, metaphysical poet Marvell skilfully uses this persona to explore the theme of time and emphasises the challenges it creates and the limitations it imposes on us.
Through clever imagery, persuasive techniques and effective word choice he stresses that “time flies” and we should the “seize the day”. In the thesis of the poem Marvell creates idyllic scene where Marvell’s persona can spend each long day adoring his mistress.
However the use of the conditional statement in the first line, “had we but world enough, and time” makes it clear this is a non-existent scenario which could never happen.
If only life wasn’t so short they would be spending each moment together: this is implied through the use of the personal pronoun “we” within the first stanza. He is ensuring she knows how much he cares for her and how he would embrace their life together. We are made aware he is in no way disrespecting her and this, an opportune moment in both their lives, should be taken advantage of.
Marvell goes on to state, “this coyness lady were no crime”, but by highlighting this fact it implies he feels his lady’s refusal is in actual fact “a crime”.
He feels there is no point in her retaining her virginity as what could have been such a passionate, well spent time will lose all value and relevance if the moment is not seized. Within the first stanza strong persuasive techniques are used to compliment his mistress in order to urge her to take full advantage of the limited time they have. Marvell’s use of distinct time periods emphasises how long he would love and admire her for, if he could: I would love you ten years before the flood… till the conversion of the Jews. ”
The hyperbole flatters his mistress and shows he would love her from the beginning until the end of time (if he only could) this consequently may influence her to give into his demands as he is making it clear his love is genuine and lasting. He also says: “his vegetable love should grow vaster than empires, and more slow” A vegetable is a strange comparison as they are not generally associated with romance however they live longer than the typical flower of love and compassion: roses. The vegetables have more substance and depth.
By further comparing his love to a “slow growing empire” he implies he would allow himself time to develop feelings and gradually build up his true love but also have a large scale of passion and lust for her. In addition to appreciating her internal qualities Marvell goes on the state exaggerated scales of time he would spend taking in her beauty but he makes it clear “the last age should show your heart”. He would spend the most time adoring her inner beauty, her emotion and personality if time was on his side. Unfortunately they have limited time on earth together and it is not possible for him to admire her as he would wish to.
Marvell is expressing the point that this connection they have is for a limited period as one day death will come. The second stanza presents the antithesis of the argument and is negative towards his lady in comparison to the first stanza. He makes it clear her beauty is constantly under threat by time so she should seize the opportunity her beauty brings to her. He tells her after life all that waits are : “deserts of vast eternity” The word choice of “deserts” portrays the afterlife as large, lifeless and endless. He rejects the afterlife and does not embrace that they may spend eternity together in the tranquillity of heaven once dead.
Instead he shows the challenges time creates as her “beauty shall no more be found”, he expresses how she will lose her looks when in her “marble vault”, she will only then understand the brevity of life. There is no purpose in this lady being “quaint” as her old fashioned and sweet refusal will be meaningless when dead. Marvell uses grotesque imagery to further this idea: “then worms will shall try that long-preserved virginity” The shock of such a vision allows her to think all will be lost if time is not seized. All her beauty and the passionate times that existed on earth will now “turn to dust” and these opportunities die with her.
He is using shock tactics to scare her and persuade her to make the most of the time she with has. Marvell’s persona supplies a solution to time taking hold of them. In the synthesis he alters his speech and returns to complimenting his lady. He wastes no time in trying to seduce her through the repetition of “now”. He commands her to make a decision, he needs a reply urgently as time is short. The speaker may be rushing her into a decision but he implies they will have a passionate time together is the moment if seized. He states: “And now like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour” By comparing them to “birds of prey” he suggests they make a violent attack at time. They will become one and tackle time and its limitations instead of being limited by time. He wants them to “tear our pleasures with rough strife”, they need to fight to have these moments together, they can’t just sit back and allow time to slowly devour them. If they work together to seize this moment they will break “the iron gates of life”. The speaker finishes his oration with: “Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run. ”
He returns to the image of the sun and time, he knows they can’t stop it passing but they can make the most of the time they have. Continuing the theme of togetherness he uses the imperative form giving certainty to. He and his mistress should be chasing his time and the opportunities it brings to them. To conclude, Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” effectively explores the concepts of carpe diem and tempus fugit. By using the theme of time he shows the hold it has on us all and any moment given should be seized. A worthwhile opportunity should not be wasted as “time flies”.