I need help outlining the sections of the poem, "To His Coy Mistress." Outline the sections of this poem. If you were to paraphrase its argument, how many parts would the argument have?

Expert Answers
azphstchr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem can be outlined in three major sections. 

The first section of the poem begins with the first line and ends with "For, lady, you deserve this state, nor would I love at lower rate."  This first section of the poem presents the problem that the young man is having, in that he is interested in a young lady who is "coy" with him (in other words, she is not willing to give him that which he wants).  The first section of this poem uses satire to exaggerate the fact that if the man had all the time in the world, he would spend thousands of years trying to win her heart. 

The second section of the poem begins with "But at my back I always hear, time's winged chariot hurrying near" and ends with "The grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace."  This second section to the narrator's argument emphasizes the reality of the fact that they do have to live under the pressure or burden of time, and that the clock is ticking.  If they wait too long, they shall go their graves having not enjoyed the intimacy that can be found with each other. 

The third section is the rest of the poem.  Here the author makes one final argument that, now while they are still young, let them stop wasting time and live the rest of their days passionately.  He concludes by stating that although he cannot stop the hands of time, the sun should have to chase them in their passionate pursuit of each other. 

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem has three sections, the first section contains the biblical references where the older man states how much and for how long he will love the coy lady.  He reinforces his pledge of love with reverence for a shared Christian faith with the lady.  The second section of the poem deals with the older man's plea for the coy lady to sieze the day and embrace his passion for her, for he warns, soon they will both be dead. Cold in the grave where there is no love.  And lastly, he suggests to the lady that if they engage in their passion, they will give time a run for its money.  They will keep the sun at their backs as they enjoy every minute, pratically making eternity jealous with their passionate love for each other. 

subrataray | Student

The poem in its three parts has been directed to the end of ‘carpe-Diem’ theme. Marvell revives the theme expounded by the earlier poets, - Spenser, Herrick, and the other Elizabethans. Marvell introduces the lyricism and courtly manner of the Tudor-court. There are number of metaphysical points, allusions, abrupt comparisons, far-fetched images, and all these are centered to vivify the object of love-making at blooming youth.


The opening stanza is an assumed proposition on vast time and space. If the lovers were allotted vast space and were placed in eternity, then they would have been able to pass their ‘long loves day’ by making love, remaining separated from each other. The lady-love in that case, could pick up rubies walking over the ‘Indian Ganges’ and the lover could sing his love -song as love-loran swain from the side of Humber. There are other speculations as, - how long their ‘Vegetable love’ may continue and the lover, subject to the condition of being placed in eternity could allow as vast time as the conversion of the Jews, faster than Empires or ten years before the flood. Besides these, the courtship, lover would continue by praising the other parts of the lady far more than a period of ‘thirty- thousand’ years.

The concluding stanza becomes a conclusion of the lover. And the conclusion is drawn from the first two stanzas. As life is not placed in eternity and as the lover and the lady-love would grow and die, so they should not lose a single moment of youth. For, youth is fast-fading. This idea has been decorated, with a number of images as ‘willing soul’, (transpires) ‘instant fires’, ‘amourous birds of prey’, ‘one ball’, ‘rough strife’, ‘iron gates of life’. These images are suggestive to signify the quick and violent love-making. Besides, during the love-making the lover and the lady-love would be forgetful of the effect of Time upon them .For the aesthetic delight in which they would be dipped into ecstasy, would be to them the highest bliss of the mundane existence,

“Thus though we can not make our sun

Stand still yet we make him run”

Read the study guide:
To His Coy Mistress

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question