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To His Coy Mistress: Beneath The Romance Essay

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Few would argue that on the surface level of Marvel's "To His Coy Mistress" the speaker is a lover advancing a conventional 'carpe diem' line of thought. He systematically reasons with his desired object about the futility of delaying their interlude when the hours available to them are limited, but the lyric may simultaneously function as a metaphor for Marvel's endeavors as a metaphysical poet. Metaphysical writers view poetry as an intellectual exercise, an opportunity to develop ideas in a logical, argumentative structure; for them, the object of poetry is not to serve as an outlet for an effusion of emotional sentiments. If one approaches "To a Coy Mistress" as a discussion of the pressures which time places upon a writer, Marvel's apostrophe takes on an ironic twist. He uses his analytical skills to coax his writing to manifest his intended desires, providing a playful look at the connection between a man and his work. Complicating this relationship is the necessity of negotiating under the terms and constraints of an outside third party: time.

Marvel battles to balance his time between his public occupation as a member of the British Parliament, the Hull, and his more private pursuits as a writer. The superficially apparent pleas of a lover seeking a relationship serve as a mirror to Marvel's struggle to conquer his artistic prowess.The poem itself contains three distinct components of argumentation, all which occur within a syllogistic framework. The argumentation of each division begins with an acknowledged impossibility, represented by the conditional tenses of "Had we," "But," and "Now, therefore." Marvel comprehends his incapacity to master absolutely the antagonist of time, but in this poem, he achieves a victory through the creation of an interpretation of time unbounded by a linear backdrop. He uses a three tiered progression of argumentation: 1) a reflection of the writing process removed from traditional conceptions of time; 2) discourse on the urgency of creating written material within human time frames; and 3) the presentation of written material as a celebration of life.In the first division, Marvel creates a world ideally conducive to his endeavors as a writer by distorting human measurement of time. In the beginning line, the vast and illimitable capacity of the backdrop blurs the re...


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...al games, is advancing a more complex message. One of the hallmarks of metaphysical poets is the practice of metaphysical conceit, which is a figure of speech that employs unconventional and paradoxical images. Marvel engages in the challenging task of relating the struggles of a writer trying to direct his energy and ideas into a concrete format to the attempts of a lover trying to convince another to engage in sexual relations. The syllogistic framework of the poem seems to support the implausibility of such a relationship, but Marvel succeeds with his logical progression in formulating a unique perspective of a writer's plight. By constantly shifting its pace, the poem redefines the conception of time, asking one to consider how an artist must control his medium within time's constraints. The audience feels itself being gently introduced to the endless possibilities of the exploration of ideas just before entering a race against time to understand the frustration, fear and the ultimate explosion of excitement accompanying the writing experience. Marvel succeeds in validating the metaphysical tenets of prose, but only if the audience is clever enough to read beneath the romance.


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