Andrew Marvell

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Discuss the portrayal of time and fate in the poems of Andrew Marvell.

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Time and fate are central themes in the poems of Andrew Marvell. Let's examine some of these poems to see what the poet has to say about these important realities.

In "To His Coy Mistress," Marvell focuses on the passing of time. The speaker and his mistress do not have all the time in the world. If they did, he would spend hundreds of years simply praising her. But time is passing quickly, and it will lead them soon enough to their graves. This is the fate of all human beings. Therefore, the speaker argues, his beloved should give in to him now, that they might make the most of the time they have and make their fate run after them as they enjoy every moment of their love.

In "The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn," Marvell's speaker is a nymph whose pet fawn has just been shot and is doomed to die. The nymph knows her pet's fate cannot be reversed, but she prays to God for justice against the men who shot it. For the nymph, the fawn has been the center of her time after her lover left her, and the little animal's love has been much more constant. When the fawn dies, the nymph declares that she will have a statue made of the fawn and of herself in mourning so that she may weep for the fawn for all time.

In "Young Love," the speaker again examines the relationship between love and time. Young love, he says beguiles "old time," but time still moves on anyway. The speaker is afraid, in fact, that time may take his beloved away from him before her time, so they must love now before time catches up with them and they meet their fate. Indeed, fate may intend either good or ill to them. Thus, they must run ahead of fate, chasing the good and crowning each other with love.

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