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Sieze the Day!
Andrew Marvell wrote his short poem “To His Coy
Mistress” in a persuasive tone to allow the speaker to
convince his mistress, the listener, to succumb to his want.
Marvell uses meter, imagery, and tone to persuade his lady
to further commit in their relationship. This poem has a
very strong carpe diem or seize the day theme which Marvell
conveys throughout the poem.
In general, the meter of the poem is iambic tetrameter.
Marvell uses pauses as well as enjambment to break up the
neat pattern that the rhyme scheme of the poem imposes. The
first two lines, for example, contain internal pauses that
break the tetrameter into shorter units; “Had we but world
enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime.” The
third line contains no pauses and runs directly into the
fourth, so that the rhyme runs opposite the rhythm of the
couplet. Near the end of the poem, the lines seem to be
coming out faster than at the beginning, creating a sense of
urgency as the speaker talks. These last few lines are the
lines in which the speaker talks about how the two should
seize the day and live life to the fullest.
The use of imagery throughout the poem is also an
effective means of conveying his message to the lady. His
references to the Great Flood and the conversion of the Jews
are both examples of biblical imagery. The timelessness of
the Bible backs up his eternal love towards his lady. The
references of the tomb are perhaps the greatest images of
all, the images of death. Nothing depicts the urgency and
shortness of life better than the expectation of death.
Images implied in the last stanza are those of a race
against time. The goal is to try to beat time, and although
time will eventually win, the “runners” must try to keep up
with time for as long as possible, and actually beat it for
awhile with the moment of love. And because no way exists
to beat time, Marvell suggests that they must live with life
they have to the fullest.
Marvell’s excellent use of tone also helps to prove his
argument with his mistress. In the first section, the poem
takes a loving, romantic tone; “We would sit down, and
think which way to walk, and pass our long love’s day.”
Marvell’s romantic style of writing helps to prove his
allegation that he loves his mistress more than anything in
the world. The tone undergoes a drastic change in the
second stanza, however; “I always hear time’s winged
chariot hurrying near.
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the shortness of life and the lack of time the two lovers
have to share together. His deathly tone is effective
because of the inevitability of death in everybody’s life.
The last section is a call to action, ”thus, though we
cannot make out sun stand still, yet we will make him run.”
Lines like these create a tone of urgent need to do as much
as possible, which is very similar to the carpe diem theme.
Marvell’s poem, written almost 500 years ago, is still
a great, somewhat controversial and shocking poem. The
content of the poem is timeless, however. The carpe diem
theme of the poem is one of the reasons that the poem
remains appropriate no matter when read.