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There are many difficulties presented when analysing Andrew Marvells To His Coy Mistress.

[1] To cover every aspect of the poem would take considerably longer than the confines of this essay allow. Marvells poem is an argument for seizing the moment in the face of lifes brevity (carpe diem). The register of the poem, through hyperbole and metaphor, shows how To His Coy Mistress is predominantly about time rather than lust, love or seduction. Marvells syllogistic argument is written in rhyming couplets and has a tetrameter rhythm. His first proposition begins [h]ad we but world enough, and time (1) and tackles the question of having all the time in the world before he and his mistress make love. The second proposition, proceeded by a but, begins [n]ow, therefore (33) and suggests that they dont have all the time in the world. The tone of this argument is witty, clever, seductive and impatient, suggesting that the speaker is living for the moment. He suggests, worms shall try his mistresss long preserved virginity (2728) - after she takes it to the grave with her. This extensive and often extreme use of metaphor and hyperbole can be both amusing and horrifying. This hyperbole, or exaggeration, is present throughout the poem. It continually plays on the theme of time. Marvells speaker wants everything now before he or his mistress end up in their graves, where he believes noneembrace (32), despite the privacy available. The poem argues that life should be seized and lived to the fullest. Marvell sees time as a wingd chariot hurrying near (22): time is described through hyperbole but also in metaphor. Marvell suggests that his vegetable love should grow / Vaster than empires, and more slow (12-13). He compares his love to a slowgrowing vegetable, which it could be argued, is seasonal and therefore does not take so long to grow. However, the hyperbolic metaphor does identify the scale of his love for the woman; for a vegetable to grow as vast as an empire would no doubt take longer than humans have to live. It becomes difficult to decide if Marvells To His Coy Mistress is a poem about time, love, lust and seduction or perhaps a combination of all four. On the surface, the poem is undeniably about seduction and living for the moment. The speaker argues [now] let us sport us while we may, / like amorous birds of prey (38). However, beneath the surface there is evidence to suggest that the speaker has feelings of love for the woman rather than simply lust. Although it is clear he is attempting to seduce his would-be lover, and at times objectifies her, he tells her he would love [her] ten years before the flood (7-8). He is prepared to spend An hundred yearsto praise [her] eyes (13-14), if time were endless. Therefore, if he could live forever, he would spend his life devoted to her. An example of his respect for the woman can be seen in the lines, you deserve this state, / Nor would I love at lower rate (19-20) which implies that the woman is sophisticated a point reinforced in Andrew Marvell by Robert Wilcher, who affirms that The Coy Mistress is no nave country girl (p. 41). Despite the speakers respectful compliment, he can also be disturbingly disrespectful. For example, he reminds his mistress that the graves a fine and private place / But none, I think, do there embrace (31-32). These lines suggest that she will die a virgin if she does not make love to him; which is somewhat cheeky, perhaps even arrogant. The speaker does objectify the woman, but she is certainly intensely present in his mind: he has to work wittily and cleverly to seduce her. The speaker addresses his mistress directly throughout the poem but her emotions, and responses to his seduction are essentially kept hidden.

What effect does this witty and elaborate attempt at seduction have on the mistress? The intensity of the speakers efforts do not allow readers to gain an insight into how the woman feels about his advances, and critics have differing views on this topic. Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, in Introduction to Literature, Criticism andTheory, focus on the following quatrain: 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 (35-36) They interpret the womans reaction as a blush, and see her as being angry, repulsed or shocked rather than amorous (p. 33). By contrast, Wilcher sees her reaction as a dramatic sense of her sexual arousal (p. 43). Another interpretation could be that she is tempted to succumb to his advances, but is as yet undecided: perhaps she is amused by the speakers witty and seductive approach. Whichever interpretation is preferred, this poem is not entirely typical of poems of its time. So how is it different? Marvells image of a ball as emblematic of sexual and psychological closeness: Let us roll all our strength, and all / Our sweetness, up into one ball (41-42) echoes John Donnes use of the same symbol in his poem The Good-Morrow (p. 263). He tells his lover Where can we find two better hemispheares (17). However, Donnes use of the symbol belongs to a different context. Donnes speaker has his lover, and so does not need Marvells rhetorical ingenuity to attract her. Donnes poem comes from the opposite end of the continuum from Marvells: whereas Marvell desires a woman - wants her in both senses, - Donne possesses one. Different again is George Herberts Love III (p. 346). Here the poet conducts an internal monologue on his experiences of love and his worthiness to experience this emotion. The speaker feels [g]uilty of dust and sinne (2). Unlike the poems by Donne and Marvell, no lover is present in Herberts account, though love is personified: interestingly, no gender is given. Most striking here is the poets tone of voice: whereas Marvell is buoyant, ingenious, witty, maybe arrogant, Herberts poem is humble, reserved, guilty, even anxious. Indeed, one may need to go back as far as Shakespeares sonnets for a scenario similar to Marvells. Although Shakespeare does not attempt to entice a woman into his clutches through witty persuasion like Marvell, his sonnets are often marked by absence and desire. A case in point is Sonnet 29 (p. 236), in which the speaker almost [despises] himself (9) until Haply I think on Thee [his lover] (10) and his cares disappear. It is worth observing that Marvells needs are a little more pressing, a little harder to satisfy.

What these poems do have in common, however, is their extensive use of metaphor and in particular, personification. In The Good Morrow Donne personifies love - For love, all love of other sights controules (10). Interestingly, Herbert does the same: his poem begins Love bade me welcome (1). Similarly, Shakespeare personifies heaven in his agony, the poet calls upon deaf Heaven (3) to relieve him of his misery. Marvell uses personification in relation to time, which has slow-chapped power (40). The recreation of abstract nouns, such as love, heaven and time, as human beings gives all these poems impact and immediacy: appropriate to all, in the context of romantic love. Marvells use of personification here is a reminder that To His Coy Mistress is a poem about time, to a greater degree, than it is about love. This is confirmed by comparing Marvells poem with Robert Herricks To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time. In Herricks poem the speakers advice is to Gather ye rose-buds while ye may (1), in short, to enjoy ones youth while one still has it. The poem employs so many images and arguments similar to To His Coy Mistress love, the sun, time passing, urgency, even the coyness of women that the parallel is almost uncanny. But Herricks theme is emphatically time, not love, although his observation that humanity is timebound echoes Marvells own thinking. In answer to the proposition Is Marvells lyric a conventional or unconventional love poem? The evidence in the poems by Shakespeare, Donne and Herbert suggests there is no such thing. Lovers may be absent or present, desired or revered, enthusiastic or reluctant. But Herricks poem serves as a reminder that love, like life, is subject to the rules of time and, set alongside To His Coy Mistress, suggests that time is Marvells theme. Indeed, Wilcher states that the first two rhyming couplets of Marvells poem can be interpreted as if only they were not subject to the inexorable laws of space and time (p. 40). As a final point, it could be argued that Marvells poem is about lust. But Marvell feels as deeply about love as anyone: in his poem The Definition of Love he describes love as so divine a thing (6). Despite the cheeky implications in To His Coy Mistress it is unlikely that he would settle for lust.