To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

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The under review is, “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell. The poem by a superficial look appears to be a love poem. However, a detailed review indicates that the poet sought to underscore the importance of time instead of love in a relationship. Andrew Marvell is particular about immortality and the finite nature of time for human beings who are in love. The poet does not skirt around the stark reality of the mortality of human beings and that they must not procrastinate for too long without consummating their relationship

The principal theme of time and immortality is divided into three segments. The first part deals with the absence of enough time in this world to court for too long without experiencing the ecstasy of consummating the feelings of love. The poet implores his girlfriend into the realization that if they had the unlimited time of existence on planet earth, then her reluctance to sleep with him would not be a significant point of concern to him. Andrew Marvell captures the point in a precise but clear phrase, ‘Had we but world enough, and time’ to signify the gravity of the matter and the yearning that he had for his girlfriend owing to the fleeting life that human beings have in this world (Mahdi 133).

The second section of the theme of time and immortality regarding the poem emphasizes the absence of endless time because he felt that time was pressing hard on his heels and he could tolerate the pressure of time and be patient for her. The analogy of a chariot in the stanza, “But at my back I always hear/ Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;’ (Mahdi 134) implies that he felt the burden of failing to seize the moment that life had accorded them. To enjoy the benefits of a relationship and instead risk losing every chance of consummating their union because of the uncertainties surrounded by each passing. Therefore, it is possible that the narrator was aware of the possibility of death at any time while still waiting for the perfect moment for the girlfriend to make love with him (Mahdi 134).

The third part of the theme of time begins with the line, ‘Now, therefore, while the youthful hue’ to imply that the poet had the antidote for the best way to handle the impasse without rocking their relationship. He explicitly mentions that there was not sufficient time remaining for them and they better sleep together to prevent the ugly scenario of a break up solely for their inability to do that which they were postponing the inevitability of consuming their relationship soon.

The phrase “carpe diem” captures the import of seizing the opportunity that one gets on a given day. Therefore, the lover is justified to emphasize the short nature of life and the temporary time he has to enjoin the lover who has time without number demonstrated her reluctance to lose her virginity due to the need to maintain patience and fulfill societal expectations that require every girl to keep her virginity until marriage. Therefore, the poet is afraid that they are forfeiting what could prove to be the only moment enjoy the pleasures of the present time (Mahdi 133).

The first two sections of the main theme that the writer concentrates on outline the need to have an outright rejection of the conventional conceptions of the immortality of human life. The author rejects the notion the irony that exists in the cliché of the escape of time to some state of paradise where they get reunited and have an eternal dalliance. His phrase, “Had we put world enough; and time,” (Mahdi 134) underscores the foolish delusion of a couple ever getting a period of perfect and eternal paradise. Further, he discounts the misconception of everlasting love as wishful thinking when he infers to the kind of love that the society is accustomed to which sees love as a monstrous vegetable that grows gradually to an inestimable size in the archetype garden. Majority of the people hold that view to be true, but the poet finds such pillar of comfort about love hollow and lacking merit (Mahdi 135).

Contrastingly the second segment of the theme presents a typical scenario of time that is administered by the inevitable laws of nature. The sun is explained to suggest that its rising and setting implies the reality of the laws of decay, physical extinction and death. The poet makes his description appear quite extreme in its philosophical realism, unlike the first section that presents the idea of the impracticable idealization. Finally, the poet strives to acknowledge in a disguised description that humanity is mortal and that the life of an individual is always being eroded every day they wake up thus bringing them close to death.

Furthermore, Marvell presents a solemn tone in the following four lines. “But at my back, I always hear. Time’s winged chariot hurrying near, and yonder all before us lie. Deserts of vast eternity.” (Mahdi 134). The poet gives a vivid and blunt description of the unavoidable circumstances of time catching up with them. He is aware that eternity faces him and his mistress and the kind of eternity that awaits them is not the one that he can still show affection and heap praise on her. The vastness of the eternity that is staring at them stretches after their demise. Therefore, its high time that her mistress, saw the urgency to grant him the desires of his heart because the moment is fleeting and there is no need of wasting the already finite resource of time in consummating their relationship. Otherwise, he was Marvell was getting worried that they end up becoming victims of time (Mahdi 135).

In conclusion, the application of deductive reasoning holds that the inability to make the sun stand still just like it happened in the biblical age, Marvell’s mistress will even worsen the situation of limited nature of time by making it run faster if she continues to maintain her stance of keeping her virginity. Moreover, the narrator knows that the longings of the mistress to consummate the relationship may be revealed with time, but he also reckons that its prudent to for her to accept his demands early enough before suffering the risk of the extinction of passions.

Work Cited

Mahdi, Ali Abduljalil. "Archetypal Elements in Andrew Marvell's" To His Coy Mistress"." Studies in Literature and Language 3.3 (2011): 133-135

May 04, 2022



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