To His Coy Mistress Literary Devices

What are some examples of literary terms in this poem?

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker uses a metaphor in the phrase, "and pass our long love's day," in which he compares the lifespan of his and his coy mistress's love, so to speak, to a day.  The speaker employs another metaphor when he refers to his "vegetable love" that grows slowly but just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

He uses allusions when he refers to the Ganges, a river that flows through India, as well as the Humber, a tidal estuary in England.  An estuary is a partially enclosed water body near a coast; its waters are brackish, and it generally connects to the sea.  He says that if time were no issue, they could take leisurely strolls at this bodies of water.

He uses hyperbole (exaggeration) to say that if he and his lover were not doomed to run out of time, he would spend a hundred years praising her eyes and forehead, two hundred years on each breast, and thirty thousand years to praise all the rest.  The implication is that she is so beautiful that it would take all this time to appreciate her.

The speaker uses personification to characterize "Time" as the driver of a "winged chariot" that is constantly behind him, chasing him.  The sun is personified in the last few lines when the speaker says that they (he and his mistress) will "make him run."

The speaker uses a simile when he says that his lover's youth sits on her "skin like morning dew," returning to the comparison of the life of their love to a day; it is young and new now.  Another simile compares the lovers to "amorous birds of prey."

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To answer your question, I'll make a list of literary devices (literary terms) that Marvell used and how he used them.

  • Rhyme: particularly end of line; the poem's rhyme scheme is very easy to trace.
  • Couplet: the entire poem is written in couplets, or two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.
  • Meter: the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables; each couplet has the same number of syllables.
  • Allusion: making reference to people or events in history, mythology, or literature; the speaker says he would love her "ten years before the Flood."
  • Hyperbole: exaggeration; the speaker says that "an hundred years" should be spent to praise her eyes and "thirty thousand to the rest"
  • Simile: youth sits on her skin "like morning dew."

This is a brief list of the devices Marvell used in the poem. I hope it will help you to find more.



workhead9 | Student

In reading “To his Coy Mistress” there are three literary devices that jump out at me, rhyming words, parallel structure and  allusion.

The first device rhyming words links the first line to the second line, the third line to the fourth line and so on.

Marvell, in turn, uses this device as the basis for the next device, the poem’s parallel structure. First, every pair of lines is linked by a rhyme pair. Second, these pairs of rhyme follow each other as though they are in a single file line. Consequently, Marvell’s use of parallelism gives firm order to the first stanza.

The third literary device Marvell uses is allusion. This occurs in the middle of the first stanza: “Till the conversion of the Jews”. This line gets at the notion of the continual and long-lasting of the rejection of the Jesus as the Messiah.


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To His Coy Mistress

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