man and women intimately close in the starry night sky with an infinity sign below them

To His Coy Mistress

by Andrew Marvell

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What literary devices are used in "To His Coy Mistress"?

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There are numerous literary devices used in "To His Coy Mistress," including apostrophe, allusion, personification, simile, and metaphor.

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"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 "His Coy Mistress," a woman with whom he wants to make love but who has apparently been rebuffing his advances out of concern for her "honour."

Marvell makes a number of allusions—references to other persons, places, events, or texts—to furnish the speaker's attempts to convince his mistress of his sincerity and sound thinking. The speaker mentions the Ganges River in India and the Humber River in England, noting that he and his beloved could as distant as those two rivers if they had all the time in the world. He also alludes to the Greek sun god, Helios, when he mentions "Time's wingèd chariot," a specific reference to the chariot Helios rides across the sky. This allusion is also an example of personification, a device by which an inanimate object is given human attributes.

There are many more instances of figurative language. Marvell uses metaphor when he compares eternity, or the afterlife, to "Deserts" that will be devoid of passion. He uses a simile when the speaker describes his mistress's beautiful skin, saying that a "youthful hue / Sits on [her] skin like morning dew." He compares the passion he claims that she feels in her soul to "instant fires," another metaphor, and implores her, via simile, to act with him "like amorous birds of prey" who would devour time rather than allow it to devour them. Marvell personifies the sun again when the speaker claims that he and his beloved "will make him run" to catch up with them.

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