To His Coy Mistress

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.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

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.

Works Cited

Jokinen, Aniina. To his Coy Mistress. Luminarium, 2007. Web. May 31, 2011.

Landry, Peter. To his coy mistress. Blupete, 2011. Web. May 31, 2011.

Shmoop. To His Coy Mistress. Shmoop, 2011. Web. May 31, 2011.


Andrew Marvell writes an elaborate poem that not only speaks to his coy mistress but also to the reader. He suggests to his coy mistress that time is inevitably ticking and that he (the speaker) wishes for her to act upon his wish and have a sexual relationship. Marvell simultaneously suggest to the reader that he/she must act upon their desires, to hesitate no longer and ?eize the moment?before time expires. Marvell uses a dramatic sense of imagery and exaggeration in order to relay his message to the reader and to his coy mistress. The very first two lines of the poem suggest that it would be fine for him and his mistress to have a slow and absorbing relationship but there simply isn? enough time. He uses exaggerations such as ?ove you ten years before the Flood?and ?n hundred years should go to praise? ?wo hundred to adore each breast; But thirty thousand to the rest.? These exaggerations imply that the speaker would wait many many years until his coy mistress was ready, but there isn? enough time. The reader can also visualize the deep love the speaker contains for his coy mistress through the imagery. For example, the speaker suggests that his vegetable love should grow, and vegetables only get larger and more ripe as they grow, analogous to his love, but vegetables grow very slow. His love is so great that it would grow ?aster than empires, and more slow? meaning that if there was enough time, his love for her would be immense. The speaker in this poem is suggesting that his coy mistress is well worth all of these praises, but considering the situation with such little time, there is no period for such high praise. The speaker in this poem seems frustrated; he delicately tries to inform his coy mistress that their death is near, and they still have not had sexual intercourse. In lines 17-33 the poem seems to lose the exaggeration sense and suddenly becomes serious. He (the speaker) reinsures his coy mistress that ?ou deserve this state?(state of praise and high acknowledgment), ?ut at my back I always hear, Time? winged chariot hurrying near? Andrew Marvell uses and interesting image in line 22 (the line mentioned above) when suggesting to his coy mistress that death is near. He substitutes the word ?eath?for a more gentle, delicate term of ?ime? winged chariot? This term was probably used to prevent from frightening such a coy mistress. Marvell continues to involve the reader? imagination through unimaginable images. What do ?eserts of vast eternity?look like? In fact, Marvell probably used such abstract images to suggest to his coy mistress that their future is indeterminable, and ?hy beauty shall no more be found? Perhaps, beauty is what the coy mistress is so concerned with and the speaker in this case is trying to frighten her to have sex with him quicker. He continues to use intense imagery when describing to his coy mistress that even after death the ?orms shall try That long preserved virginity? The speaker now abstractly describes that holding on to your virginity for life is no good, because her body will be raped of worms and her virtue will turn to dust after death. The last stanza strongly urges for him and his coy mistress to act now and ?et us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball? Through the imagery in this stanza he the speaker seems irritated by the pressures of time, and the stubbornness of his coy mistress. Marvell uses action words and images to portray the speaker? short patience such as ?nstant fires? ?irds of prey? ?ime devour? ?nd tear our pleasures with rough strife? ?ake him run? These images create an instant picture in the reader? mind that depict the speakers anxiety. Also, in lines 33, 37, and 38 Marvell uses the word ?ow?to imply that the speaker wants he and she to take action immediately. Marvell created this poem with a universal theme, a theme that urges everyone to act upon their wishes immediately before time expires. Marvell never informs the reader that the speaker in the poem is


I'm Morris!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out