How does each poet use the sun in "To the Virgins, To Make the Most of Time" and "To his Coy Mistress"?
In both Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time," and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," there is a sense of urgency. Certainly, the theme of carpe diem is in Herrick's verse as he utilizes the sun and its measure of a day as a metaphor for the swift passage of time,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.
Thus, the lover's must make use of their time as the shadows of its setting approach them.
Likewise in Marvell's poem, the theme of carpe diem also dominates. For, it is this urgency of time that forms the syllogistic argument of this verse. Whereas the sun has been the metaphor for the swift passage of time in Herrick's poem, the final image of the sun standing still is most likely an allusion to Zeus's lengthening by twenty-four hours his night with the lovely Alcmene in the delightful task of engendering Hercules--an image that, nevertheless, the lover is unable to recreate. And, because the speaker of the poem is unable to recreate this extension of time, he and his lover must make the sun "run" from them by capturing as much love as they can in the time that they have before the sun sets,
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Even though Herrick and Marvell take different approaches toward the sun as a timekeeper, both their poems stress the need to enjoy love while there is yet time.