To His Coy Mistress is a poem which was written by a man to express his feelings to a lady who did not seem to see the essence of love or sex. The poem captured several themes including time, sex, mortality, freedom and confinement. This essay will discuss these themes and also the use of style as well as their relevance in the poem.
Seize the Day
Carpe diem is the major theme in this poem. This means, seize the day. It is a phrase that explains that life is short; therefore make best out of what you have at the moment. It means you maximize the opportunities you get without letting any go to a spill.
With the use of alliteration and irony, the writer said: “Had us 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 (Jokinen 1). He used images of passion when he used instant fires and birds of prey referring to the excitement they would get in their freedom.
The man’s view was that he was in short of time and he was wasting the time he already had. He was feeling bad that the lady he admired was not bothered by him or time. The idea he had was that if they had all the time in the world, he would not be worried that she did not seize the day.
He thought that he was supposed to have time for sex with this lady before they got old and failure to seize the day meant they would not have enough time to enjoy: “At my back I always hear, Times winged chariot hurrying near…Thy beauty shall no more be found” (Jokinen 1). Each line has eight syllables with four iambs. This sets the pace of reading.
Love and Sex
The first two stanzas express the theme of love and then the desire of having sex with this lady. It seemed that the lady was smart enough to be admired by men but without intentions of any relationship with them. The speaker then decided to break the silence and talk out his feelings.
However, the woman was hesitant to respond. He tried everything to pursue her by using beautiful expressions. He promised her a love that would last. He praised her beauty and said that he could gaze and praise her at all times. The horny man is persistent and wants to celebrate the lady’s virginity. He used symbolism, “Should rubies find; I by the tide, Of Humber would complain. I would” (Jokinen 1).
Rubies are symbols of preserved virginity. The speaker was very creative. In the first stanza, he appealed himself to the lady. Secondly, he expressed the emotions and the meaning of time to both of them. He later opened up to him and explained his motives to have her and the benefit they would get. They would save the time they have at the moment and have a great time together.
He exaggerated his love by saying that he could admire her beauty for hundreds of years without getting tired. He also told her the consequences she would face if she did not do according to his advice. He also tried to convince her of the loveliness and the enjoyment she would get if she gave in to have sex with him. Whatever the speaker said throughout the poem was to alarm her that whatever time she wasted was precious and she would have to face negative consequences if she kept on being reluctant.
The desire of the man to have sex with this lady was clear. He was trying to convince her to accept the love that he had for her. He said that he would love her ten years before the floods till the conversion of the Jews. This signified the history of the Bible in the time of Noah and Jews who could never convert. He meant that he would love her forever and love her without conditions. He presented himself as the best man without faults.
The metaphor, “My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires, and more slow” (Jokinen 1) was to convince this lady that he would not be quick to love but he would be slow but sure. The speaker argued that if they had sex, their time would not be wasted. He claimed that, if she preserved her virginity, it would be all in vain and it will be a waste for him too. “My echoing song, then worms shall try, that long preserved virginity, And your quaint honor turn to dust, And into ashes all my lust” (Jokinen 1).
The metaphysical love poem expresses the theme of sex in a frank way. One wonders if he truly loves the lady. The poem is ironical because the speaker used a rhetoric tone. Perhaps the lust within him pressured him to express his feelings towards her. He believed that it was a must for the lady to agree to his request. He thought it would be a crime if she turned him down.
In the third stanza of the poem, the speaker expressed his sexual fantasy. He begged the woman to accept sexual union with him. The speaker asked the lady to team up her strength with his: “Let us roll all our strength and all, our sweetness up into the ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife” (Jokinen 1). The speaker used diction to express his thoughts. At the time of writing this poem, England was exploring and discovering the exotic East.
The speaker relates time with Mortality and thus this becomes a theme in this poem. By saying that times winged, chariot hurrying near, the speaker is viewing that death is as if it was coming swiftly in a chariot so as to reach them ( Shmoop Editorial 1). He used imagery to his advantage. Again he relates the forthcoming disaster to worms, dust and ashes to express their mortality if they fail to live in their freedom.
Freedom and Confinement
The imagery of use of crime signifies the consequence the lady should face on her failure to agree with the speaker. The speaker believed her refusal is a punishment to both of them. The marble vault refers to a grave of a maiden. He believes that her attitude towards sex is old fashioned and she has the wrong idea of what the world is all about. Now let us sport while we play. Sports cannot be enjoyed by prisoners.
The speaker probably was referring to sexual freedom as sport: “And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life, thus, though we cannot make our sun, Stand still, yet we will make him run” (Jokinen 1). The speaker wanted to free himself from the life he sees as confining in the iron gates of life. He wishes to live his life with the lady free to do what they wish to before time runs out (Jokinen 1).
This poem utilized styles such as imagery, irony, metaphor and alliteration to bring out the main themes. The poem captured expressions of a man to a woman with mixed emotions of lust and love. The speaker was also in search of freedom to have a sexual union with this mistress who was reluctant. He used an appealing speech, expressing his emotions and the need for his freedom in the fast running time. Thus, themes Carpe diem, love and sex, mortality, freedom and confinement were bought out clearly in this poem.
Jokinen, Aniina. To his Coy Mistress. Luminarium, 2007. Web. May 31, 2011. http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm
Landry, Peter. To his coy mistress. Blupete, 2011. Web. May 31, 2011. http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/CoyMistA.htm
Shmoop. To His Coy Mistress. Shmoop, 2011. Web. May 31, 2011. http://www.shmoop.com/to-his-coy-mistress/themes.html