To His Coy Mistress Analysis by Andrew Marvell

This article is an analysis of To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell.

Summary of To His Coy Mistress

In this poem the speaker talks to the object of his affections who is being ’coy’ (shy) towards his sexual advances.

He explains how much he loves her, and try to convince her to sleep with him by reminding her that life is short and soon they will be dead!

To His Coy Mistress Analysis

Stanza 1
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
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.
The word 'Had' emphases the speaker's whole point in the poem - that they don't have time to waste.

He explains that if they had all the time in the world he would be perfectly happy to wait, and for her to be 'coy'.

"Rubies" He emphasizes his love by suggesting that she deserves precious gems.
My vegetable love would grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
If they had time his love would grow bigger than empires.

Here the speaker over-exaggerates how long it would take him to appreciate each part of her body for the time it deserves.

The rhyme at the end of the stanza emphasizes that the lady deserves to be loved and adored for the amount of time mentioned above.

Stanza 2
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vaults, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
The tone in this stanza changes as the poet personifies time as something that is quickly and dangerously chasing everyone.

The phrase 'Deserts of vast eternity' emphasizes that life is short and after it there is nothing.

The line 'Thy beauty shall no more be found' reminds his love that she won't always be beautiful and have him chasing after her, so she should make the most of it while it lasts.

If she doesn't sleep with him soon she will be dead and the only things to benefit from her virginity that she has kept for so long will be worms that eat her dead body (lovely...)

The words 'long-preserved' and 'quaint' suggest impatience on the part of the speaker.

Stanza 3
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
After thinking about death the first word of this stanza brings us back to the present moment (and the opportunities it presents that shouldn't be wasted ...)

Simile here emphasises the woman's youth and beauty (which as we know won’t last long apparently)

The word 'sport us' choices emphasises that they should have fun while they can.

The poet uses a simile to remind us that reproduction is a part of life for all animals.

The rhyming couplets and personification of time 'his slow-chapped power' here suggest that they should have sex now before time takes away their ability to.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasure with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
The poet uses 'our' to emphasise that they are in this together, and uses positive adjectives to make sex sound appealing and ‘sweet'.

The poet finally stops tiptoeing around it and describes having sex.

To His Coy Mistress Analysis


The very odd word 'tear' and 'rough' choices here, in opposition to the adjectives at the start of the stanza.

The personification of the sun as running here suggests that because the poet Is not able to stop time and death they should make sure that they are enjoying that time they have left. So yeah basically sex is the answer to the problem of death. It's not a brilliant argument, but you got to admire his determination...

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