Comparison of To His Coy Mistress and An Answer to a Love Letter


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Comparison of To His Coy Mistress and An Answer to a Love Letter

These two poems are meant to be a love letters written by a man to a
lady of higher disposition and an answer to that love letter, written
by that lady.

The first, written by Marvell is written is telling her 'Carpe Dieum'
- or 'Seize the Day' this phrase sums up his poem, as that is what he
is telling her to do all the time. This is shown by the way he has
structured his piece he starts of explaining what they could do if
they had all of the time in the world


"We would sit and think which way to

Pass our long loves day."

This means that they would just spend the whole time talking and
planning their life because he says our long loves day and in the
context it could mean their life (as they will love forever, therefore
all their life will just be one day full of love) then he goes on to
say that although he would like to do this they cannot as they will
eventually die

"Times winged chariot hurrying near

Thy beauty shall no more be found"

He uses this imagery to show how time (death) is creeping up on them
but fast, as in on a winged chariot. Then, in the logical fashion he
comes up with a solution that they should

"Roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness into one ball."

This could just means that they should 'get together and become one,
possibly through matrimony or having a child hence ball. It could be a
euphemism for having sex.

However in Montagu's poem she uses a different argument. At first she
says that he is seeing a false impression of her because of all the
flattery at the beginning, then saying 'but leaving her-'tis me you
pursue'. She is complimenting his wife (as the man I s already
marries) trying to persuade him that his life at the moment is much
better as he has a wife and money and would be stupid to leave that
behind. Then she starts getting really aggressive and offensive
against mankind, likening them to pug dogs,

"Why should the poor pug (the mimic of your kind)

Wear a rough chain and be to a box confin'd?"

This is meant to be an immense insult against mankind- likening them
to simple dogs, that to be fair are quite ugly and just sit on a lap
to be stroked all day. In saying this she infers that men have no use
but to 'be'. In the next line she begins to give you an idea about why

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she is hostile and critical to men:

(Referring to the pug)

"Some cup, perhaps, he breaks, or tears a fan

While roves unpunish'd the destroyer, Man."

What she means by this is that when a dog breaks something such as
china or furniture then it is punished 'and be to a box confin'd'
whereas when man breaks (destroys) a lady's heart then his is left
unpunished to attack his next victim.

However in Marvell's poem the only 'bullying' he employs is to prove
to her that in her coyness she is being irrational and that if she
doesn't get with him soon then 'Thy beauty shall no more be found',
which means that on earth beauty such as hers will not be found
because she will have died without leaving anything behind, such as
children. He also uses macabre imagery to 'scare' her into getting it
on with him. He incites that if she takes her virginity to the grave

'Then worms shall try

That long preserved virginity'

By this he means that if she doesn't have sexual intercourse with him
then the worms will take it in her grave and worms epitomize 'creepy
crawlies' and everything that is 'abhorrent'.

He flatters her with compliments about her body

"An hundred years should go to praise

Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze"

He uses the forehead as an example because that was the only part of
the female body that in those days was visible as the rest of their
body was covered up.

"Two hundred years to adore each breast

But thirty thousand to the rest"

He uses the word 'but' because if he didn't then he would sound like
some kind of pervert who is just interested in the physical part of
the woman and he wants to come of as someone who wants her whole self.
He can make these empty promises because he knows that he will never
have to carry out these promises, as they do not have that much time.
Almost in reply to this she says in her poem that he means none of
this and she is 'without one single charm, but being new' so he is not
in love with her because of her looks or personality but simply
because 'the grass is greener on the other side'

Both poems bring into play rhyming couplets throughout, in an A A B B
C C D D E E structure. This creates a certain rhythm throughout the
piece that ensures that the reader carries on reading.

In both of these poems there is a lot of figurative language used, for
example similes like 'sits on thy skin like morning dew,' or
metaphors 'the destroyer, man' she actually drops in an oxymoron near
the end 'like a begging thief' they also use a lot of personification
'time's winged chariot, hurrying near' these all contribute to the
'personality of the poem and add to the readers enjoyment because they
make them more compelling.

I think that the tone of these poems that Marvell intended his poem to
be read was one of lust and adoration moving to a kind of husky rough
tone as though he doesn't mean what he is saying. However I think
Montagu wants her poem to be read in a kind of angry, suppressed tone
or one that emanates anger but does not show it.

Personally I preffered Marvell's poem because of his chauvinistic
attitude that sums up men from all ages and I find quite amusing.
Montagu picks up on this and I particularly enjoyed herlikening of men
to pug dogs and the language of that part which shows her bitter
defiance of ever giving her love away again. Even so I preferred
Marvell's macabre imagery and bullying techniques to try and bed the
lady that stands in difference to the traditional techniques of wooing
them.


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