I am curious about the poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell. What is the argument made by the person to his lady?

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The poem is divided into two sections with an obvious change of tone/mood in between.  In the first several lines, the speaker woos his "mistress" by telling her that if there were time enough, he would spend ages on each and every part of her...giving her the rapt attention she deserves since she is so wonderful.  The longest period of time would be spent on her heart which is the most beautiful part of her...he is appealing to her physical and emotional spirit.  Her coyness "would not be a crime"--would be tolerated until the "conversion of the Jews" to Christianity (which will never occur).

However, he argues that "Time's winged chariot" flies swiftly and near to them.  In other words, they don't have all the time in the world.  So, she needs to quit waiting so long to be his lover.  Now is the time, or the only creature to enjoy her "long-preserved virginity" will be the worms in the grave. Her beauty will fade, her honor and his lust will be dust.  So, he argues, let the time be now that we give the sun a run for its money...

This poem is an example of the carpe diem school of thought--act now while you're still young and beautiful.  Most of the poems written in this school of thought deal with the young man attempting to get the young woman to give in to him intimately.

lit24's profile pic

lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" is a metaphysical poem. Systematic reasoning is one of the chief characteristics of metaphysical poetry. Stated simply, the argument of the poem is that man is mortal {"The grave's a fine and private place/But none, I think, there do embrace"} and hence it is advisable not to waste time {"But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot drawing near"} in long drawn out gentlemanly methods of wooing but to quickly consummate the sexual union {"And tear our pleasures with rough strife/Thorough the iron gates of life"}.

This  argument is presented in the form of a syllogism. The first two stanzas contain the premises from which the conclusion is derived in the third stanza: 1. "Had we...(if)  2. "But"  3. "Now therefore."

The irony, lies in the fact that the argument of the impatient lover is fallacious.  It is a clear case of 'denial of the antecedent': The propositions of the  first two stanzas are 'true' but the conclusion is invalid - just because time is short  doesn't mean that they must hastily indulge in sexual intercourse.

But then,  all  is fair in love and war and the impatient  lover uses all his seductive powers-even fallacious arguments- to gain his objective. 

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