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To His Coy Mistress: This Seventeenth Century poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) is a

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To His Coy Mistress: This Seventeenth Century poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) is a "carpe diem" ("Seize the day") poem. Its theme is that life is short and time is passing. The persona takes the loved one to task for not yielding to his persuasions to make love to him. It is another poem about power. The woman is holding power over the man by refusing his entreaties. This kind of poem was very popular in Marvel's time. It does not necessarily describe a real situation. In the first part of the poem, the persona complains that if time were in plentiful supply, the woman's modest shyness would not be wrong. She could go to the River Ganges in India, a very exotic place, and celebrate her virginity ("rubies" are symbols of preserved virginity), while he would lament her loss beside the Humber, a far less attractive place. ...read more.


Her beauty deserves this and he would not value her at any less than this. The But at the beginning of line 21 introduces a far more serious tone as the persona, at the very centre of the poem, chillingly and unforgettably reminds the loved one of the inevitable passing of time and the coming of death: "But at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near: And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity." Until now, the tone has been flattering, if exasperated, but now it becomes frightening and horrific. Death is a series of The bleak metaphor for death, "deserts of vast eternity," sets the mood. In the marble tomb, the loved one's beauty will be lost to decay and corruption, his voice will not be heard, and her virginity, now so carefully preserved, will be lost anyway, but to worms. ...read more.


They should, while her beauty still has its youthful softness and her passion its "instant fires" (which contrast with the "ashes" of his burnt out lust in the last section), enjoy their love to the full, hunting down time to "devour" and take pleasure in it, rather than succumbing to its slow but inevitable erosion of their being. The image of the birds of prey continues as they "tear our pleasures" the flesh of the prey they have hunted, even s they pass through the "iron gates" of life. Time is now seen as their prison, but one which they can defy by embracing the pleasure of one another. They cannot make time still, as Joshua discovered in the Book of Judges (c. 10, v 12-13) and Zeus discovered in Greek mythology, but they can ensure they enjoy its passing and "make him run". They must, as we said at the beginning, "Seize the day". ...read more.

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