To His Coy Mistress
“Coy” refers to a woman who is reluctant (=widerwillig) to give in to her lover’s plea (to make love). The purpose of the poem is to convince this lady and to make her agree to physical love. As a result of this purpose the poem is given a very special, argumentative structure. Marvell uses couplets which give the poem a regular and harmonious quality and rhythm. Theessential / central message of this poem is “Carpe Diem”, “Seize the day”, which means: “don’t stand and watch your life pass by. Make your like happen”. Marvell puts this into a very polished, lighthearted poem.
1) The first part establishes a hypothesis, which is a statement that is not based on facts, but on an imaginary
life. If the two of them (the speaker and his mistress) had all the time in theworld, there would be no need to rush / hurry. Then they could take ages to express their love by merely looking at each other. If this world belonged to them and if they had eternity Time at their disposal, the mistress’s reluctance would be no problem (=”no crime” l.2). They could sit, walk and talk, they could spend their time quietly and physical love could wait. She could be in India andcollect precious stones (=”rubies l.6) and he, by contrast, would quite simply be stuck at home, “by Tide of Humber (l.6)” and spend his time waiting and “complaining” (l.7). This scene is very ironic, playful and humorous. Marvell uses a hyperbole to give this the funny, playful, lighthearted and humorous tone.
Then the speaker moves on by saying: “I would love you ten years before the Flood”(l.8). If you refer to the time before “the Flood” (=Sintflut), you focus on the beginning of the world, the time of Creation, and his mistress could refuse “until the conversion of the Jews” (l.10) (=the end of the world, the day of the Last Judgement, das Jüngste Gericht)
“My vegetable love should grow, Vaster than empires, and more slow” means that this love would not only grow endlessly, butalso very slowly. He focuses in the physical attraction of his mistress. And again he uses this example of hyperbole to describe the immensity of his love, because he says that he could use “hundreds of years” and spend those years admiring her “Eyes” and her “Forehead” (=Stirn). This is all about his mistress’s good-looks / physical attraction. The lighthearted hyperbole makes it again funny.Then, last but not least, it is the heart that will become the centre of his adoration: “And the last age should show your Heart” (l.18). The speaker is very persuasive when describing his deep admiration for her physical beauty. It is very important for him to make her understand that he is truly impressed by her beauty, because in the second part in the poem he is going to do something to thisbeauty.
2) The second part provides us with a shocking vivid evocation of the destruction of this beauty: “Thy beauty
shall no more be found” (l.25). All this will be lost / destroyed and the way it will be destroyed is really shocking, because her beauty will be lost to worms, unless she gives it to him, because what she keeps will be lost anyway (l.27-28).“Your Honour will turn into Dust”, “Mylust (=desire) will turn into Ashes”(l.29-30). The last two lines sum this argument up. If she rejects him, she will have passed up her life. The tone is again more playful and humorous.
3) “youthful hew” = complexion, skin colour.
In the second part, the speaker described the horrors that will happen to the mistress’s beauty if she does not consent to physical love.
The three opening lines inthe third part, however, are very conventional as regard the image that he uses. This simile “the youthful hew sits on thy skin like morning dew” (l.33), where the speaker describes the beauty of her skin, could come straight out of a conventional love poem. These lines are very soothing/comforting lines, that calm her down, so that she feels at ease again and has almost forgotten about the...
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