Powerful Imagery in To His Coy Mistress

Powerful Imagery in To His Coy Mistress

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Andrew Marvel's "To His Coy Mistress" has the persuasiveness of a late night informercial. But in this instance the narrator does not want money for his "product": he wants a girl's virginity. Informercials have an advantage over Marvel. They not only persuade consumers with words but images pf their products as well. Marvell overcomes this obstacle in his use of descriptive imagery. He utilizes if not maximizes imagery to magnify his persuasiveness.

. The first stanza opens the poem "Had we but world enough, and time,/ This coyness, Lady, were no crime"(1-2) as though he were a victim of her reserved nature. He tries to pull some reverse psychology here to make her think that it is her fault for not having sex with him (against her will). He goes on to say that he would indeed love her "Till the conversion of the Jews," (10) ithere were time enough, but the narrator never directly says "forever." Instead he uses phrases that conjure images of eternity: "ten years before the Flood(8); "An age to every part"(17). His descriptive use of imagery makes forever seem an overused word that does not fully encapsulate the time he would spend waiting for her.

"But" makes the transition from eternity to the present. He continues, "at my back I always hear/ Time's winged chariot hurrying near"(21-22)). Again the narrator makes himself the victim, first of the lady's coyness and now of death. With death soon to knock on his door,, the narrator reminds his mistress of her inevitable death. "They beauty shall no more be found, in they marble vault..."(25-66). They virginity that his mistress is trying to withhold from hom will be lost is she waits too long. Yes. she is at the prime of her youth and beauty today, but it will soon be "turn[ed] to dust"(29)/ This dust and the "deserts of eternity"that lie before them both are used in stark contrast to their ripe youth. This stanza appeals to the girl's immortality and youth.

They should both be "like amorous birds of prey" who do not deny their primal instincts. Amorous, meaning eortic, is the pivotal word of this excerpt and one of the most subtly descriptive passages in the entire poem. This words seems to be carefulyy (and craftily) chosen to epitomize the lust he has for this woman; his desire for her to feel the same (or at least act on what she is feelingn).

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They should not hold back this emotion while they have time (which seems the underlying theme of this poem), "At every pore with instant fires,/ Now sport us while we may"(36-7). This "fire" refers back to the second stanza that talked of dust and ashes. Could this fire that burns inside them both be the thing that causes death in the end?

The images invoked by the narrator are no means ordinary in their description. They rouse feelings of urgency and longing. From the grave where "none do there embrace"(line 32) to oneness "roll our strength into one ball" all conjure a vast array of emotion that the narrator feels. This poem is indeed persuasive in nature but subtly so. He makes his argument with valid facts to support that argument. They will grow old and gray, while they watch their youth slip slowly away. There is no denying this. In his final appeal he makes his young mistress a promise "though we cannot make our sun/ Stand still, yet we will make him run"(line 45-6). One can almost see the smile on a young man's face as he craftily petitions a girl to sleep with him. This persuasiveness would not be as affective without Marvel's superb use of imagery.
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