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-

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dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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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's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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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.

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