Please discuss the poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is perhaps one of the most famous invitations to love in the English language. This poem is an excellent example of a carpe diem poem, as it urges the speaker's beloved to "seize the day" and to not be "coy" and to engage in a relationship with him. This poem is all about seduction and time, and the way that these two concepts are linked by Marvell throughout the poem is worthy of some serious attention. Practically, the poem is broken down into three parts, with lines 1-20 featuring the use of hyperbole to describe how the speaker would court his beloved if there were time, lines 21-32 focusing on the brevity of time and man's mortality, and lastly lines 33-46 ending with a challenge to allow them, through their embracing of love (and of each other) to rule time rather than be ruled by it.

Every carpe diem poem is really about seduction, but what is unique about this poem is the way that time is also a constant them. In the first section, time is referenced with the slow passing of the years that the speaker would like to express his love in the way he wants:

My vegetable love should grow

Vaster than empires and more slow...

The second section features time as the enemy of man, with the famous image of time as a "winged chariot hurrying near." The focus is on how defering or delaying the consummation of love actually will lead to regret and sadness at the wasted opportunity of not seizing the moment. After all, the only thing that we as humans have to look forward to is "deserts of vast eternity."

Lastly, there is a dramatic change of tense in the final section as we move into the present (which after all is the focus of the poem as the speaker wants his beloved to love him now) and the speaker urges his beloved to live the moment and not regret her coyness. The ending of the poem is a famous and masterful appeal to how they can master and dominate time through loving deeply, richly and passionately:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Note how these lines present the lovers as being in control of the sun in the way that their passion can make the sun speed up and accelerate time.

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