Comparing Tone in To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time and To His Coy Mistress


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Comparing Tone in To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time and To His Coy Mistress

“To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Rober Herrick and Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” have many similarities and differences. The tone of the speakers, the audience each poem is directed to, and the theme make up some of the literary elements that help fit this description.

The tone of “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” and “To His Coy Mistress” are different. In Herrick’s poem, his tone is relaxed. For instance when he writes, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, /Old times is still a-flying,” his word choice has a very relaxed and casual tone. His attitude reflects the relaxed tone in his poem. In Marvell’s poem, his tone is serious. Marvell’s purpose is to persuade his mistress to have sex with him. He tries to lure her in when saying, “Had we but World enough, and Time.” He starts out very seriously, in attempt to convince his mistress. The relaxed tone of “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” and serious tone of “To His Coy Mistress” point out the difference in the way the writers feel about their characters.

Both poems are directed to two different audiences. In “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” Herrick is speaking to all virgins. He never addresses anybody personally. In “To His Coy Mistress” Marvell is addressing his mistress personally. He wrote the poem for his mistress to convince her to become intimate with him. The difference makes a change because now Herrick’s poem affects the reader (depending on if she is female) since it refers to all virgins. However, Marvell’s poem does not since he is referring to one particular individual.

The them of “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” and “To His Coy Mistress” is carpe diem. The carpe diem them states, “life is brief, so let us seize the day.” In “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” Herrick simply states:

Then be not coy, but use your time,

And, while ye may, go marry;

For, having lost but once your prime,

You may forever tarry.

Herrick is telling all of the your virgins to go out and have sex in their prime because if they do not, they will regret not having sex when they had the chance to.

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In “To His Coy Mistress” the theme of carpe diem is apparent. “Now therefore, while the youthful hew/…/Now let us sport us while we may.” Marvell is telling his mistress that they need to have sex while they can because if she waits any longer, they will not be able to be intimate. Both Herrick and Marvell use the theme of carpe diem in their poetry.

By using different literary techniques, a poet can give his/her piece an edge. Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvel use different techniques to make their poems unique. Tone, audience, and theme are some literary elements used in “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” and “To His Coy Mistress.” The differences and similarities between the two poems point out that the poet’s have their own unique style, however, sometimes they can be similar as well.


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