This poem has been written in the form of a request to the poet’s coy (or shy) mistress, the grant his desire for them to make love. He argues that for to delay makes no sense because ‘at my back I always hear/time’s winged chariot hurrying along near’. Much of his argument is made through a series of hyperbole (h-p rb-l) A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton. Here he is describing how slow they could move to consummate their love if there were no pressure of time. As all Cavalier poets, he supports the statement of “carpe diem”, or “seize the day”, that is an extension to the Renaissance code of chivalry.
Today, the speaker’s speech may seem sexist in its attitude toward women and irresponsible in its attitude toward the coy mistress (the speaker doesn’t explain how he would seize the day if the woman became pregnant, for example). The mistress would like to postpone sex (theoretically until she and the speaker are married). The speaker wants to consummate their physical relationship now.
The poem’s speaker is attempting to persuade “His Coy Mistress” to have sex with him. The speaker seems frustrated, impatient, and to feel a sense of urgency in pursuing this goal.
Although the rhyme scheme of the poem follows a simple couplet pattern (AA, BB, and so on), two couplets use slant or irregular rhyme, not simply to vary the monotonous pattern but to reinforce the poem’s theme. Lines 23 and 24 use the approximate rhyme “lie/eternity”; lines 27 and 28 repeat this irregularity: try/virginity.” The poet uses pauses and enjambment (running one line into the next without a pause) to break up the neat pattern that the couplet rhyme scheme would impose. The references to spirituality in the first section seem to disappear in the second section’s focus on lust (the loss of it in death) and the third section’s focus on intercourse.
He directs a monologue to a desired lady in order to make her be not as “coy” and give away her virginity. It is actually devised from three logically flowing arguments showing the philosophy of most seventeenth century people. The first argument the speaker presents (lines 1-20) carries the purpose of misleading the lady by showing her the image of what would have been if all time lay before them. It starts with a hidden quatrain holding the argument’s main idea that “had [they] but world enough, and time, this coyness lady were no crime” (1-2). He promises her slow and efficient enjoyment of their relationship given not only to sex but also to constant feelings. Actually, he even refers to the “conversion of the Jews” (10) to transfer some sense of purity and innocence to his intentions as well as to show the vastness of time. The image of time, actually, is central in this first part of the poem. It seems infinite because huge distances present it – from “the Indian Ganges’ side”(5) to “Humber” (7). The alliteration of the “l” letter (in the phrase “long love’s “(4)) also contributes to the sense of vastness and slowness of time. To make his argument even more sound, the speaker gives even the exact number of years he plans to spend for adoring his lady. But in this way he really puts a limitation to eternity.
His emotions he compares to “empires”(12) that are the symbol of power and greatness. The mentioning of every part of the woman’s body again shows the time period’s concern with earning physical pleasure.
The second argument, in lines 21 to 32, sceptically describes the fleeting time and the coming of death, an end to both life and pleasure.
The author compares time to a “winged chariot”(22), which is a symbol of rapidity and at the same time godliness and forces beyond the control of humans. A metaphor the poet uses is the one of the “deserts” (24) to symbolize the impending arrival of death. He believes only in earthy life and pleasures and thus considers the grave an end to all opportunity for enjoyment.
In the third argument (the last fourteen lines of the poem) the speaker reaches his main point. The “s” alliteration in “sits” (34), “skin” (34), etc. shows the speaker’s serpent-like attempt to draw the lady into physical pleasure. Only the desire to have her possesses him, only the physical interests him, and that is why he connects even the image of the “soul” (35) to his physical urges. He is burnt by great passions represented by his lady’s “instant fires” (36). All should try to seize the instant because everything in one’s life, including the life itself, is fleeting like “birds of prey” (38). The repetition of the word “all”, in turn, symbolizes the speaker’s desire to have every pleasure from life at the very moment. The image of the “ball” (42) shows the activeness, the agitation, the commotion inside the speaker’s soul represented also by the alliteration in the words “strength” (41) and “sweetness” (42).
The male in this story uses specific words over and over again such as “time”, “love”, “age”, and “vast” in order to persuade the female. He has already mentioned the lack of time that they possess, so now he tries to remind her of the consequences of waiting. He tends to be very sexual with his efforts, for he knows that without it, he will face a dark eternity alone. The poem states”then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity, and your quaint honor turn to dust, and into ashes all my lust” (Marvell l:27-30). The author chooses words such as those to develop a sense of urgency and dread if the man does not get what he wants.
5. Ganges (gnjz) A river of northern India and Bangladesh rising in the Himalayan Mountains
7. Humber: Hull, where Marvell lived as a boy, and which he represented as an M.P. for nearly twenty years from 1659, is on the river Humber.
10. The conversion of the Jews was to take place just before the end of the world.
11. vegetable love: that of his “vegetable” soul.
34. dew. The original reading is “glew,” which has been justified as meaning “glow.”
38. amorous (mr-s) 1.Strongly attracted or disposed to love, especially sexual love. 2.Indicative of love or sexual desire: an amorous glance. 3.Of or associated with love: an amorous poem
40. slow-chapp’d: i.e., with slow-devouring jaws.