What sort of a person does the speaker of "To His Coy Mistress" seem to be and how does the poet develop the speaker's persona?

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The is the epitome of the carpe diem poem.  The speaker, through his intellect and romantic first 20-line approach, is attempting to convince his lover/mistress that she needs to "seize the day" and take advantage of his offer of physical passion.

In the first twenty lines, he tells her that IF there were all the time in the world, her flirting would be no crime.  He would adore her every inch with all the attention she deserves.  One hundred years for each breast, and he would save the best part of her for last:  her heart. 

BUT, as luck (or reality) would have it, "Time's winged chariot" hurries behind them.  She will not be beautiful forever, and if she waits too long, then that precious virginity that she is protecting will only be enjoyed by the worms in the graveyard. While the "grave is a fine and private place, none do there embrace"--so while we are young, beautiful, and able, let us wrap ourselves up into a wonderful ball of passion and attack one another like birds of prey.

The speaker, then, is smart--he approaches first through romance and adoration. He follows up with logic and images of the grave in order to convince her to follow Nike's slogan:  Just Do It!  Live life to the fullest!  Give the Apollo (the Sun God) a run for his money and make him chase us.

He is persistent, clever, and in complete lust for this woman.  He is confident that his speech will get him what he wants.

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sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The speaker of this poem is educated, sensual, and experienced.  His education is developed through his allusions:

Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.

His sensuality is shown in the naturalist tendency to his descriptions.  The worms that will invade her tomb, the amorous birds of prey, the morning dew, the instant fires - all these references are sexual in nature and help to underline his goal to achieve physical pleasure.

His experience shines through in the confidence of his statements and the statements themselves.  His reference to her "long preserved virginity" suggests that he knows about the pleasure of which he speaks.  His use of the repeated command "Let us" shows that he is not uncertain of what he requests, nor does he believe for a minute that she should and will refuse. 

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