Introduction to To His Coy Mistress

Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” is a carpe diem poem composed in the mid-seventeenth century and published posthumously in 1681. The poem’s speaker urges his beloved to give in to his amorous advances. If they had unlimited time, their courtship could unfold at the slowest conceivable pace, with the speaker praising his beloved in great detail for thousands of years. But “Time’s wingèd chariot [is] hurrying near,” and so he argues that if she continues in her coy behaviors, they will be overtaken by the forces of Time.

“To His Coy Mistress” is exemplary of the work of the Metaphysical poets, who favored a cerebral, metaphorically dense style that often took a light-hearted tone. Indeed, Marvell’s poem is humorous in its satire of the classic courtly love poem and notable for its memorable phrases and wide-ranging metaphors, which have been alluded to by numerous poets and writers.

A Brief Biography of Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) was a British poet and satirist. Marvell was educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, and he spent several years after his graduation travelling throughout Europe and working as a tutor. Politically, Marvell was a supporter of the republicans during the English Civil War, who sought to overthrow the British monarchy and replace it with a parliamentary system. Many of his poems are considered satirical works that criticized the monarchy and the state of the nation. However, following the reinstatement of the monarchy in 1660, he avoided punishment and showed his support for King Charles II. Notably, Marvell is credited with helping his fellow republican and poet John Milton avoid repercussions as well. A metaphyiscal poet, Marvell was especially known for his vibrant imagery and biting, satirical language. His most famous poems include "To His Coy Mistress" and "An Horatian Ode."

Frequently Asked Questions about To His Coy Mistress

To His Coy Mistress

"To His Coy Mistress" was written by the English poet Andrew Marvell and was originally published in 1681, three years after Marvell's death. It is often presented as a three-stanza poem; however,...

Latest answer posted March 26, 2021, 12:56 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

Chapped meant "jawed" in seventeenth-century English. "Slow-chapped" therefore means slow-jawed. Marvell's meaning becomes clearer if we look at what he says in context: Rather at once our time...

Latest answer posted March 26, 2021, 11:36 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

In "To His Coy Mistress," Andrew Marvell tells the addressee that when she is dead, her "quaint honour" will turn to dust. A woman's honor was closely associated with her chastity, and reputation...

Latest answer posted March 26, 2021, 11:26 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

In "To His Coy Mistress," the speaker is trying to convince a woman to have sex with him. The speaker's main argument seems to be that the woman needs to take advantage of her youth and beauty...

Latest answer posted March 26, 2021, 11:22 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

The speaker of "To His Coy Mistress" is a man, as evidenced by the masculine pronoun used in the title. He is smitten with a young lady, the "mistress" of the title, and tries to seduce her to move...

Latest answer posted March 25, 2021, 11:15 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

Metaphors are common in both literature and day-to-day conversation, as they help us to grasp abstract concepts. The most common metaphors are sometimes called conceptual metaphors; they are so...

Latest answer posted March 23, 2021, 11:27 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

"To His Coy Mistress" employs a device called apostrophe, which is when a speaker addresses a specific person or figure who is absent and thus who does not respond. The speaker directly addresses...

Latest answer posted March 23, 2021, 11:23 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

The message of "To His Coy Mistress" is that life is short, time moves quickly, and thus that the speaker and his beloved should make love now. The speaker declares that if they had limitless time,...

Latest answer posted March 23, 2021, 11:10 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

There are several ways to classify Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” First, it is a metaphysical poem. Literary scholars regularly link Marvell to a group of seventeenth-century poets known...

Latest answer posted March 23, 2021, 4:37 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

In the poem “To His Coy Mistress,” Andrew Marvell uses the sun as a figure of speech—a metonym—to represent the abstract concept of time. The sun's connection to time recurs in several places...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2021, 2:23 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

In the seventeenth century, India would have seemed impossibly distant from England. A few decades before Andrew Marvell entered Parliament, one of its leading lights had been Sir Thomas Roe, who...

Latest answer posted March 25, 2021, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

In “To His Coy Mistress,” Andrew Marvell's speaker implores his eponymous beloved to make love to him. Late in the poem, he makes the following entreaty: Let us roll all our strength and all Our...

Latest answer posted March 25, 2021, 12:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

The purpose of "To His Coy Mistress" is an appeal to seize the day. Specifically, the speaker tries to convince his beloved to make love to him while they still can. The speaker begins by noting...

Latest answer posted March 25, 2021, 6:26 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

In "To His Coy Mistress," the impatient speaker is trying to persuade his beloved to make love to him. He wants her to make up her mind in a timely fashion. Therefore, the speaker says that while...

Latest answer posted March 25, 2021, 11:32 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

The central idea in Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress" is that the two lovers have only a little time in which to enjoy their love. The first part of the poem is taken up with the...

Latest answer posted March 23, 2021, 4:07 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

What the speaker is saying in these lines, the first two of the poem, is that he and the young woman he wants to sleep with do not have all the time in the world. She is, evidently, rebuffing his...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2021, 11:14 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

The speaker says that he always hears "Time's winged chariot hurrying near" (line 22). In this line, time is personified as someone driving a fleet and fast-moving vehicle, signifying how quickly...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2021, 11:26 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

Acting on physical desire could symbolize taking advantage of one's youth and passions in myriad ways. Most literally, in the poem, the speaker encourages his standoffish beloved to sleep with him...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2021, 11:38 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

Poetic meter is the rhythm of poetry. To determine meter, we look at two things: the number of syllables and the way certain syllables are stressed within each line. Often, those stressed syllables...

Latest answer posted March 26, 2021, 4:20 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

To His Coy Mistress

Marvell's speaker expresses love in "To His Coy Mistress" first through hyperbole or exaggeration. He wants his beloved to make love to him and tries to persuade her by means of extravagant praise....

Latest answer posted March 24, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

1 educator answer
Next

Summary