What are the characteristics of the kind of love the speaker in "To His Coy Mistress" is describing in the first section of the poem. Give at least five qualities of this kind of love.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Written in the form of a dramatic monologue in iambic pentameter, the Metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell gives argument to his "Coy Mistress" why she should seize the moment with him and engage in lovemaking. In the first section, he tells his mistress, who is perhaps desirous of rational love, the highest form of love, that if he had enough time and no fear of death he would engage in "vegetable love." This type of love is a natural love that is idealized with space and time as eternal. Ironically, however, in the Aristotelian hierarchy of souls, the "vegetative soul" was typically thought to exist at the lowest level. The higher forms of souls are the sensible souls and the rational souls.

But, perhaps, Herrick wishes to convey the patience of the vegetative state of love, that like the growth of nature, had they time, his and his mistress's love could grow naturally. (Flattery, too, is part of the seduction process.)

  • For instance, they could sit down and

...think which way
To walk and pass our love's long day.

  • Marvell alludes to Imperial England (of which he was an active part), writing that they could travel to India where

Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Should'st rubies find....

  • Then, using hyperbole to express the extreme patience he would demonstrate just as Nature grows slowly and over much time, the poet suggests that he could return them to "ten years before the Flood."
  • Or, they could wait "Till the conversion of the Jews," a metaphor which expresses eternity since this conversion is not likely to occur.
  • Marvell would flatter his love and praise her physical loveliness for eons:

An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on the forehead gaze:
Two hundred to adore each breast:
But thirty thousand to the rest:
An age at least to every part

Read the study guide:
To His Coy Mistress

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