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Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress

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Length: 1072 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)
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Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress is also trying to convince his
reluctant girlfriend, 'His Coy Mistress', to love him, this time in
the act of having sex. It uses a heavily different style than the
first poem, although it keeps rhyming couplets:

'Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

But it uses irregular sentence length. The writer uses a metaphysical
combination of strong ideals and complex intellectual ideas to bring
across his strong feelings, very different to Marlowe's poem that was
very simple and unemotional. The writer uses three irregular sections
using different methods to woo his mistress.

The first section starts at 'Had we but the world' on line one and
ends at 'Nor would I love at lower rate.' on line 20. The method
employed in this section uses the Court Pastoral Tradition in a
sarcastic and humorous way.

The first two lines:

'Had we but world enough, or time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.'

Stated that if the writer had enough time then it would not matter
that his girlfriend is reluctant as he could spend forever convincing
her to love him.

'We would sit down, and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love's day.

This uses the Court Pastoral Tradition, exaggerating it and making the
surroundings idyllic and dream-like as in Marlowe's poems, making the
act of love seem very easy and casual.

'Thou by the Indian Ganges side

Shoust rubies find: I by the tide'

This uses the typical clichÉ that you can be miles apart but the love
for each other keeps them together. Also, it uses another typical idea
of the Court Pastoral Tradition, that nature is perfect and beautiful,
identified in how the writer is able to find rubies by the sea,
exaggerating it so as to make the idea of wasting time to see if love
will grow pointless.

The rest of the section insults the ideals of the other poets that use
the Court Pastoral Tradition, stating that if he lived forever, he
could spend forever gazing upon his lovers' beauty and could spend
forever before revealing his love:

'Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the flood,

And you should, if you please, refuse

Till the conversion of the Jews;'

This states that he would not complain about waiting to reveal his
love and would even wait until the conversion of the Jews implying in
a very anti-Semitic view, that this would never happen. In this
section, he uses the values of ten years to imply how long he would
wait before he would reveal his love. The use of numbers, is continual
for the rest of this section, 'Two hundred to adore each breast' and
'But thirty thousand to the rest', showing how he would not care how
long he would have to wait to reveal his love as he could spend
forever gazing upon his lovers' beauty, 'Nor would I love at lower

The final thing to notice in this section is the implicit phallic
(sexual) joke, 'My vegetable love should grow' showing this idea of
teasing and humour throughout the first section.

The second section begins at 'But at my back I always hear' and ends
at 'But none, I think, do these embrace.'

The first two lines:

'But at my back I always hear

Times winged chariot hurrying hear'

Immediately the first section is reversed and inverted, stating that
this is not reality and that death, times winged chariot, is catching
up with them. And that after death, 'And yonder all before us lie,
Deserts of vast eternity.' There is nothing, giving an agnostic view
that there is no heaven or hell.

The next line, 'Thy beauty shall no more be found', saying that you
will be beautiful when alive but when dead no one would be able to see
that beauty.

On line 26, there is a caesura, (short pause) halfway through the line
just after 'My echoing song…' as the next section uses even greater
shocking imagery:

'…then worms shall try

That long-preserved virginity,

And your greater honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust:'

He is saying that after death no one will be able to get to you but
the worms and that her honour in preserving her virginity is going to
be worth nothing when she's dead. Through use of penetrating words and
displeasing imagery, he is able to shock his lover. And that, even
though, death may be peaceful, 'The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think do these embrace.' no one will be able to love her
when she's dead.

So as to remove the seriousness from the last section, the final
section uses delicate ironic understanding to persuade her that love
is a positive thing.

In the final section the word therefore is used to make the act of
love seem logical and right.

The first two lines state that:

'Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on my skin like morning dew,'

This shows that, through the definition of fresh moist skin, that the
soul wants to come out. This is further shown in the next lines:

'And while thy willing soul transpires

With every pore with instant fires,'

Again stating that inside her, her soul is burning for her to lose her

In the next line, 'Now let us sport us while we may,' the writer is
stating that they should not wait to make love, but go for it now.

The line, 'Our sweetness up into one ball,' defines the ball as a
perfect shape showing the perfection of love.

The penultimate lines, 'And tear our pleasures like rough strife
Through the iron gates of life;' shows that he will break through any
barriers to get to what they want.

And in the final line, 'Thus, though we can not make our sun Stand
still, yet we will make him run.' once again stating that even though
you can not stop time, you can make it race, and commit to love as
quickly as possible.

In conclusion, I prefer Andrew Marvell's poem as it uses far more
complex imagery and emotions, choosing three different methods of
persuasion rather than one. It also uses strong satire to put down the
method of Court Pastoral Tradition employed in Marlowe's poems make it
controversial at the time.

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MLA Citation:
"Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress." 23 Apr 2014

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