To His Coy Mistress “To His Coy Mistress” is a dramatic monologue, in which the speaker addressed to his lady. In this poem, there are argument and counter-argument, as well as a conclusion. The poem is also different from conventional courtly love poetry, because in the first two stanzas, the speaker used a lot of exaggeration of time and space. The first stanza is the part of argument. From line 1 to 4, the speaker expressed his wish that if he and his lady had enough time, he would take the conventional way to praise and court his lady. But in the following lines, exaggeration of time and space make it clear that conventional way of courtship is simply impossible for them, and such exaggeration serves as an irony to conventional ways of courtship.
First, from line 5-10,the speaker used the distance between the Indian Granges and Humber to represent the vast space,and the length of time is suggested by “ten years before the flood.. till the conversion of the Jews. ” In line 11 and 12, the word, “vegetable” implies the slowly growing sense of the speakers love; “vaster than empires and more slow”again shows the exaggeration of space and time. From line 13 to 17, the speaker said he would use hundreds of years to praise his lovers different body parts, and such expression only implies their lack of time, line 92: To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell (1681) Lines 41-42: “Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball,” from: T.S. Eliot: Poet and Dramatist by Joseph Chiari: “And after all, would it have been worth while, amid such trivialities, “to have squeezed the universe into a ball”, as Marvell proposed to do with his “Coy Mistress”…The argument starts again, and the question is once more raised: should he have dared? And again the same answer: “Would it have been worth while?”– for the lady, turning towards the window, could say: “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant at all”‘ Issues and Research Sources: Most of Marvell’s lyric works were never published in his lifetime, when he was known as an author of political satire attacking religious intolerance and political corruption. Upon his death, his housekeeper, Mary Palmer, sent his manuscript works to press under a Preface she signed “Mary Marvell,” suggesting she was his wife.
The Marvell canon remained in disarray for two centuries until Herbert Grierson’s annotated edition of Marvell’s poems (1912) and the critical study, Metaphysical Lyrics (1921). These attracted the attention of T.S. Eliot, whose essay on Marvell brought him to the attention of American critics, as well as continuing a reappraisal of metaphysical poets’ strategies. How might this long period of neglect and misunderstanding have changed the way Marvell’s work affected later poets? Contrast this with the effects of the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare, which never went out of print and continued to have enormous influence in nearly every generation until the mid-twentieth century. Might unknown poets constitute a potentially revolutionary force against the reigning authorities, or are they unknown for good reasons? Marvell’s relationship to the Puritan and Royalist causes seems to have been extremely complex.
The library does not have the best political biography, but it is available in the area (H. Kelliher, Andrew Marvell: Poet and Politician ). How might you trace out the Royalist and Parliamentary strains in his poetry? Under what circumstances may a poet’s politics be entirely ignored? “To His Coy Mistress” is (with Herrick’s “To Maidens to Make Much of Time”) one of the era’s most famous expressions of the carpe diem motif. Note the comparisons one might make with Donne’s and Jonson’s poetic flights of fancy regarding the lover’s claims about the vast world’s riches, and the cosmic scale of time. The phrase “But at my back I always here” shows up in Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” with a slightly different sound accompanying the persona’s observation.
Note that, like many Marvell poems, this one unfolds in stanzas that work like verse paragraphs, opening with a hypothetical exposition of timeless love, changing to the dreadful effects of time (see Spenser and Shakespeare), and turning the threat into the motive for reversing the effect of “devouring time” (“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-chapped power.”). His closing three couplets are a triumph of the metaphysical conceit’s power to represent the human condition in violent, memorable, and witty metaphor. Andrew Marvell, Various Short Poems, the “Mower and the Garden” group, “An Horatian Ode: Upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland” Genre: metrically experimental lyrics, many in the pastoral mode, and a “balanced” or “Horatian” ode describing its subject’s strengths and weaknesses. Form: Marvell’s most common strategy is alternation of short and long lines, like the tetrameter-trimeter groups in “The Coronet” or the pentameter-tetrameter pairs in “The Mower Against Gardens.” He also likes tetrameter couplets (“To His Coy Mistress,” “Bermudas,” “A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body,” and “The Nymph Complaining”), which anticipate the pentameter couplet (“heroic couplet”) whose measured balance becomes the hallmark of the next century’s poetry. The “Horatian Ode” alternates tetrameter and trimeter couplets in which the first pair sets up a situation which the second, shorter pair tartly comments upon.
Sometimes the sentiment is admiration (ll. 27-8, 43-4, 75-6) and at others, ambiguous truth (ll. 99-10) or outright criticism (ll. 15-16, 119-120). Characters: Marvell’s most famous personae are Damon, the hapless mower in love with Juliana and hostile to gardens, the sentimentally grieving “Nymph,” and his mute but memorable “Coy Mistress.” His own persona is more ambiguous, masked by its playful use of langauge and standard poetic conventions.
Marvell, Andrew (1621-1678) Was born in Winestead, Holderness, and educated at Hull Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He travelled on the continent from 1643 to 1647. He was a tutor to Mary, daughter of the Parliamentary general Sir Thomas Fairfax from 1650 to 1652, and wrote many of his best poems during these years, spent at Nun Appleton in Yorkshire. He acted as unofficial laureate to Cromwell from 1654 and succeeded Milton as Latin Secretary to the Council of State in 1657. He was elected MP for Hull in 1659 and continued to represent the city for the rest of his life.
He was influential in releasing Milton from imprisonment in 1660. In his later years he was best known for his satires, such as Last instructions to a painter (1667), attacking corruption in court and government. Many of his poems were not published until after his death. Personal correspondence for Marvell is thin on the ground and a third of the meagre forty-five personal letters surviving and in print represent correspondence with Henry and Edward Thompson. The Brynmor Jones Library holds four of these letters. Two are addressed to Sir Henry Thompson, who had been mayor of York and owned a country estate at Escrick to the south of that city from 1668, and are dated 10 November 1674 and 25 April 1677. Another letter from Marvell is to Edward Thompson, younger brother of Sir Henry Thompson dated 15 December, probably written in 1674. There is a fourth letter to Marvell from Sir Henry Thompson which is undated but probably written in 1673.
All these letters can be found at [DDFA/39/26-29]. A photocopy of a letter from Marvell to Henry Thompson (December 1675) can be found at [DDMM/28/1]. There are also holograph drafts of and notes for a book, The art of Marvell’s poetry(1966) and lectures on Marvell by J.B. Leishman, 1955. [DX/72] Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime. [A woman (more or less young), is the object of this older gentleman’s eye.
She could be a coquette, one who uses arts to gain the admiration and the affections of men, merely for the gratification of vanity or from a desire of conquest; and, without any intention of responding to the feelings aroused in her plaything. At any rate, it was more the convention in Marvel’s day for a pretty woman when she found herself interacting with an available man, to display shyness or reserve or unwillingness, at least for the first little while.] We would sit down, and think which way To walk, and pass our long love’s day. Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Should’st rubies find: I by the tide [Remember the times of the poet, in this case Marvel: circa 1650. England was beginning its era of great exploration and the discovery of the exotic east.] Of Humber would complain, I would Love you ten years before the flood, [You know, I do not know what Marvel meant by “Love you ten years before the flood.” A biblical expert may have to be consulted. Certainly he means to love her through the good and the bad.] And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires, and more slow ; [“Vegetable love”: What do you suppose Marvel meant by this? At any rate, their love for one and the other may well grow slowly, for what ever reason; but it is a growing thing: deep, complex and vast. A lover is devoted to the loving business of praising his or her lover and is endlessly fascinated with the body and general presence of the other: this is part of being in love.] An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on they 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 ; [Nice bit, “the last age should show your heart.” I remember it being said, that once the heat of sexual passion subsides, as it always does, then — one will be left with a blemished person and the best that can be hoped is that one is left with a beloved who tells the truth, who shuns sham, who has a heart.] For, lady, you deserve this state, Nor would I love at lower rate.