Andrew Marvell, “to His Coy Mistress”

1418 Words Oct 1st, 2008 6 Pages
Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”

In ‘To His Coy Mistress’ the speaker carefully constructs a subtle and logical argument as to why his addressee should sexually unite with him. The speaker attempts this proposition through finesse in manipulating reason, form and imagery. The reasoning employed would be familiar to a reader educated in Renaissance England, as it is reminiscent of classical philosophical logic, entailing a statement, a counter-statement and a resolution. In line with this method Marvell’s speaker codes his argument in classical imagery. To understand this argument I will be approaching the poem in three clearly defined sections, which are denoted in the poem with indented lines.

The first of these section
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The next section runs from lines 21 to 32, here the speaker moves away from the hypothetical to reality but retains the melodramatic language used in the previous section to sustain the tenacity of his points. Time here is portrayed as chasing the speaker as opposed to being something the speaker is in control of as in the end of the last section. This is done using the image of a ‘winged chariot’ (l.22), this has classical associations with Greek mythology which relates to his form of argument. The meter of the poem is restrictively regular, this structure emphasises the idea that time is constantly progressing; reflecting the speaker’s argument.

Space is no longer inhabited by images of movement and life like the rivers previously mentioned but instead: ‘before us lie / Deserts of vast eternity’ (ll. 23-4). The desert has strong connotations with deathliness, an issue that the speaker gruesomely develops upon and progresses within this section. The speaker implies on lines 26-7 that the only exploration of the mistress’s body that will be undertaken will be by the worms that are decomposing her body if she remains in her coy state. This thought that her sexuality should not be wasted is elaborated upon with a crude pun on line 29: ‘And your quaint honor turn to dust’ which, as the Norton Anthology of Poetry explains in the footnote, is a play on the Middle English noun queynte which means female genitals. These images of
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