Find the irony in Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress", giving examples.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"To His Coy Mistress", by 17th century English poet, Andrew Marvell, is a notable example of metaphysical poetry, a type characterized by among other traits, startling, fanciful metaphors and hyperbole or overstatement. In the first section of the poem - from "Had we" to "at lower rate" - Marvell drives home his theme of opportunism or carpe diem ('seize the day') through a sustained set of ironic, overblown and deliberately insincere flatteries directed to the young lady. "Had", the first word of the poem, is set in the subjunctive tense and provides a grammatical counterpoint to the ironic fantasies that follow. To paraphrase this section: If they had all the time in the world, then his lady could take a lengthy journey to India (a remote and exotic place in the 17th century) to gather rubies by the Ganges; then he would love her "ten years before" Noah's flood that swept away all humanity, including lovers like himself; then she could refuse his advances until the impossibly remote day when all Jews became Christians; and then he could amorously linger for millenia in admiration over her physical beauty. But, as these ironies imply, neither he nor the lady have any time for a long, drawn-out seduction, and thus the poem concludes:   

Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial