Two central, intertwining themes in Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress" are time and passion. The voice of the poet expressly states that time is brief, so one should indulge in life's passion while one can. Two elements Marvell uses to portray his themes are ...
Two central, intertwining themes in Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress" are time and passion. The voice of the poet expressly states that time is brief, so one should indulge in life's passion while one can. Two elements Marvell uses to portray his themes are imagery and similes.
Among many images found in the poem, sight and touch images are especially used by Marvell to capture death as lasting an eternity. To capture the fact that death is an eternity of empty nothingness, he uses the image of the desert to describe death as a barren wasteland, as we see in his two lines of the second stanza:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
He further uses both a touch and sight image to capture the cold hardness of death by describing his loved one in her "marble vault." A vault is a location where the dead are often buried and can literally be seen; marble can also be literally seen and is cold and hard to the touch; therefore, we can see how the phrase "marble vault" is both a touch and sight image used to capture death. Death is cold because only the living are warm. Death can also be viewed as hard because rigor mortis sets in as an initial step to the decaying process; only the living are soft and supple. Marvell's main point is to assert that all of mankind's lives progress towards death, which is an eternal state of bareness, coldness, and hardness.
Marvell also uses similes to capture the speaker's feelings of passion. One example of a simile is seen when the speaker describes the youthfulness of his lover sitting "on [her] skin like morning dew." The image of dew helps capture the moist luminosity of her young skin. He further uses a simile to propose that he and his lover should engage in sexual activity "like amorous birds of prey" that "devour" their time together. Likening sexual behavior to "birds of prey," which are meat-eating birds, such as vultures, helps convey the intense, passionate feelings of the speaker; his feelings are so intense that they can be called animalistic. The speaker's purpose is to try and convince his "coy mistress," meaning his shy and resistant mistress, to relinquish her resistance and seize the moment of passion since life is very short.