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To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marwell

to his coy mistress by andrew marwell

Haven’t we all heard the phrase “seize the day?” And why shouldn’t we? Do we know what’s in store for us tomorrow? Andrew Marwell, a metaphysical poet from English literature wrote several poems about seizing the day, and To His Coy Mistress is one of them. Throughout the poem, the poet tries to woo his coy mistress, expressing how there’s never a right time for anything, and seizing every moment to do what one feels like is the way of living.

The mistress in the poem To His Coy Mistress isn’t known to the readers. Although, she keeps the stance that she doesn’t want to sleep with her lover, who thinks that she should give in to his request. Following in the footsteps of the father of metaphysical poetry, John Donne, Andrew Marwell, too, uses a unique style of his expression of love.

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To His Coy Mistress

By Andrew Marwell

to his coy mistress by andrew marwell

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.

  My vegetable love should 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

   But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, 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.

   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-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
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.

To His Coy Mistress Analysis

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marwell has a very clear theme of wooing a lover to give in to her lover’s request of making love to him. Although, the mistress, who’s shy and modest, refuses to make love to him. The poet although has a very practical reaction to his refusal.

We can confidently call To His Coy Mistress a progressive one for its time. Talking, writing, or expressing sexual wants from a partner wasn’t highly appreciated by readers. But belonging to the second generation of metaphysical poets, Andrew Marwell did a splendid job. Take, for instance, the first few lines of the poem To His Coy Mistress.

He begins with how every human’s time on this planet is limited. But had they had all the time in the world, then things would have appreciated her coyness with a deeper respect. They could have spent hours deciding what they would do together. Leave alone respect, but he would also spend his time worshipping her.

The use of phrases like “10 years before the flood” referring to an episode from the Bible and “vegetative love” depicting his slowly nurturing love make the poem To His Coy Mistress one of the most intriguing metaphysical poetries. He would use all the time in the world to praise her features and beauty, claiming that she indeed deserved it all.

andrew marwell metaphysical poetry

In the next few lines of To His Coy Mistress, Marwell expresses how but the reality is that their time is ticking. The entire mood of poetry changes with these lines, when he switches from praising her to re-introducing her to life’s brutal reality of time. Eventually, her beauty will fade and her virginity will “turn to dust” and his desires will turn into ashes of lust with their deaths.

The lines, “The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace,” hit me with a high dose of the poet’s creative thinking. He implies how even though they would have privacy in their graves, but also isn’t a place where they can find each other’s embrace.

Andrew Marwell doesn’t leave his mistress feeling all rushed and scared. He then offers a way out of all this anxiety and loneliness in the last few lines of To His Coy Mistress. He re-expresses his desire of making love to one another explaining how they’re still young and seize the day. By using the word “sport,” he means sex in the olden days.

Physical love is one of the most natural things in the world, much like the “amorous birds of prey” he mentions in these lines. In the last few lines, the poet subtly unearths his passion for his mistress and the kind of passionate love he wants to make to her.

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marwell, otherwise called the carpe diem love poetry, the kind that speaks about loving one another in the present, is one of the most critically acclaimed poems in literature. With different interpretations about his remarks on seduction, sex, and death, a world of poetry analysts offers several interpretations for this poem.

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Hemali Adhiya

Hemali Adhiya is the co-founder and author of the e-magazine Love Smitten. Alongside writing and editing for several other websites, she hosts a YouTube Channel- Total Angrezi. Traveling is her way to unwind, and she loves recording these experiences!

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