To His Coy Mistress

To His Coy Mistress

by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
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.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Summary of To His Coy Mistress

  • Popularity of “To His Coy Mistress”: The poem is a famous dramatic monologue written by Andrew Marvell, a great metaphysical poet. It was first published in 1681. The poem comprises the attempts of the speaker to convince his beloved, a mistress, to be ready to make love with him. It also talks about the transience of life and the transient nature of time. However, the popularity of the poem lies in the fact that it deals with the subject of love and immortality of life.
  • “To His Coy Mistress” As a Representative of Destructive Time: As the poem is about a shy mistress, the speaker says that life is not endless and that she should not be shy or hesitant. He asks her to spend all the days of their life together. He talks about her physical beauty and says if time allows him, he will admire every feature of her body before reaching her heart. He also comments on the destructive nature of time and suggests that they should make love before her beauty decays in death.
  • Major Themes in “To His Coy Mistress”: Love, Sex and mortality are some of the major themes incorporated in this poem. The speaker, with his argument, tries to persuade his shy mistress to sleep with him. To him, the mistress should not say no to him as the shadow of approaching death will take all these joys of their lives. Therefore, they should seize the present moments of life and enjoy life to the fullest.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “To His Coy Mistress”

literary devices are tools that enable the writers to present their ideas, emotions, and feelings with the use of these devices.  Andrew Marvel has also used some literary elements in this poem to adore the beauty of his mistress. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been analyzed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /ou/ in “And you should, if you please, refuse”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. For example, “Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side”; “Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”; “Deserts of vast eternity” and “then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “And while thy willing soul transpires”.
  4. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech used to compare two objects that are different. There are two metaphors used in this poem. The first is used in the fourth line, “To walk, and pass our long love’s day” where he compares the life span of his and his mistress to one day. The second is used in the eleventh line, “My vegetable love should grow” where he compares his love with slow growth of vegetables.
  5. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. The poet has used hyperbole in the fifteenth line, “Two hundred to adore each breast.”
  6. Simile: There is only one simile used in this poem. In the line thirty-four “Sits on thy skin like morning dew” the poet compares woman’s youthful skin to morning dew.
  7. Enjambment: Enjambment refers to the continuation of a sentence without the pause beyond the end of a line, couplet or stanza. For example,

“But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;”

The literary analysis shows that the poet has sketched a very vivid and realistic picture of the transience of life and his quest for love.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “To His Coy Mistress”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem: lines 1 – 20, lines 21 – 32, and lines 33 – 46.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme followed by the entire poem is AABB.
  3. Iambic Tetrameter: It is a type of meter having four iambs in it. The entire poem follows iambic tetrameter such as, “Had we but world enough, and time.”
  4. End Rhyme: End Rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. End rhyme occurs within the second and third lines and again within the second and fourth lines. The rhyming words are, “Time”, “crime”, “way” and “day.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used when talking about the immortality. These could also be used to remind people that life and beauty are not permanent.

“Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found.”