In "To His Coy Mistress," the poem can be reduced into if, then, but, and therefore. Can someone help me figure it out? If- Then- But- Therefore-

Expert Answers
droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marvell actually directly provides the answers to these questions in his poem: it can be divided into "if," "then," "but," and "therefore" sections, except that he has used different words to introduce some of them.

The first line of the poem, "Had we but world enough and time," is the "if" section. This could be rephrased as, "If we had all the time in the world and all the possible opportunity."

He follows this up with the "then" response: "This coyness, lady, were no crime." So, Marvell is saying, if we had all the time in the world, then it wouldn't matter that you, the mistress, are being so coy and refusing to advance beyond the courtship stage.

For several lines, Marvell describes what he would do if this were the case. However, then he brings up the "but" issue: "But at my back I always hear / Time's winged chariot hurrying near."

Here, then, the poet is saying that he wishes they did have all the time in the world, but he's very conscious that they don't and that soon enough, he and his beloved will both be dead, after which it will be too late for them to consummate their love.

You can spot the "therefore" part of the equation a few lines further down: "Now therefore, while the youthful hue / Sits on thy skin like morning dew." Therefore, the speaker says, because they are mortal, they should "sport us while we may," or make love while they have the opportunity to do so.

To summarize, then, and put all the parts of the equation together as a paraphrase:

If we had all the time in the world, then it wouldn't matter that you want to take your time about this courtship. But unfortunately I'm very conscious that we're both mortal and can't be coy forever, therefore we should make love now, while we still can.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" presents a syllogism designed to convince a woman that she should sleep with the speaker now, rather than later.

A syllogism is a logical argument in three parts that uses reason and logic. 

Marvell's syllogism is:

  1. If they were immortal, they could take centuries in the wooing stage of love making; they could take all of the time she requires with no negative effects.
  2. But they are mortal--they'll be in the grave soon, and though the grave's a fine and private place, none do there embrace, as the closing couplet of this section reads.
  3. Thus, therefore, then, because they are mortal, they need to make love now. 

The words you ask about signify the syllogism, the logical argument.  In a syllogism, if the first two parts are true, then the third part is logically true.  Marvell presents a witty, contrived argument to get his love to have sex with him. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here is how I would answer the question you've been given:

The poem starts with an "if."  The poet says that if he and his coy mistress had all the time in the world then they could take their time.  He would love her forever and there would be no hurry.

But people do not live forever.  He hears time's chariot behind him -- he knows that life is short.

Therefore, he says, he and his mistress should really start sleeping together now rather than waiting.  If they wait too long, they'll be too old so they should enjoy life now while they are young.

kc4u | Student

Marvell's invitational lyric, To His Coy Mistress, uses the syllogistic structure of if (then)-but-therefore to work out the ancient Classical theme of carpe diem to metaphysical transcendence. The speaker addresses his beloved, who is not prepared to surrender in love, in the form of a syllogistic argument. The argument is in three parts.

IF the lovers had enough space and time, they could have gone for all the paraphernalia of traditional romantic love-making, for they would have been in no hurry.

BUT in reality,Time runs fast, and chases every human being as the hunter pursues the hunted. As and when the beloved dies and lies in the grave, all her love is gone unfulfilled, just as all the passions of the lover get burnt up.

THEREFORE, the lovers should utilize the moment without bothering for eternity. They should make love with all the strength and energy of 'amorous birds of prey', not as victims but as victors, running with the sun, united in love.

Read the study guide:
To His Coy Mistress

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