To His Coy Mistress as a Carpe Diem Poem
To His Coy Mistress one of the well – known poems of Andrew Marvell and one of the greatest love poems in English literature has every claim of making the poet a versatile genius as Donne, the father love poems in English literature has every of metaphysical poetry.
Like Ben Johnson’s ‘Song to Celia’ with the refrain ‘Come my Celia let us prove’; Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress in its very theme owes much to the Latin poet Catullus. The general idea on which poem is based is the classical Carpe diem, the belief in the virtue of enjoying oneself while on is still young. Though Marvell is indebted to the classical concept “Let us gat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die,” in its details he is original. The poet’s treatment of the classical theme has a new intensity. The overall idea in the poem is presented in the briefest reduces to
“If we had infinite time, I should be happy to court you at leisure. But our life lasts only for a moment. Therefore, in order to live, we must seize the moment as it flies.”
The poem reveals marvelously the poet’s treatment of love which is as original as that of Donne. The poet proceeds to contrast a short of syllogism, a form of reason in which the conclusion is deduced from different propositions. The theme of the poem is emotional but the experience is intellectual. The poem has what Eliot say’s “the unified sensibility or an amalgamation of thought and feeling.’ Intellectualism that is saying common things in uncommon ways is the hallmark of metaphysical poetry. Marvell’s poem is no exception to it.
The poem is constructed with the logic of mathematical propositions. The first proposition comprising the first twenty lines is all hypothetical. The lover becomes fanciful and creates a world for himself where he will adore various parts of the beloveds body as enough time and space are at his disposal. The second proposition with next twelve lines nullifies the lovers conjecture about the possibility of an infinite world. The first proposition beginning with “Had we but” gets dashed against the hard facts of life. The dream that has ‘vegetable love’ should grow vaster than the empire admits impediments as the lover is painfully aware of times ‘winged chariot’ and the ‘desert of vast eternity’. It demolishes the wishful thinking of the first proposition by conveying the inevitability of death and too shortness of human life. The poet’s tone grows serious and carries a cling of banter as he frightens the beloved :
“The grave is a fine and private place.
But none, I think do their embrace.”
The very word ‘therefore’ in the line thirty three marks the conclusion. It comes with an instructive note that it is no use delay in consummation. They should make the best use of time rather than wither as the victims of slow devouring time.
In “To His Coy Mistress”, Marvell is no less a poet of wit and conceit of which Donne is the universal monarch. Indeed like other metaphysical poets Marvell delights in the novel thought of expressing the desire to say what he hopes has never been said before. He refers to Ganges and the Humber by whose sides the lover and the beloved would be rambling for ages. He has much to speak of metaphysical concepts. Examples can be manipulated. His fancy of loving the beloved ‘Ten years before the flood’ and conversion of the Jews are all examples of conceits
The poem wins singular success for the fact that in spite of Marvel’s love for logic and argument, the poem is not starved for deep passion. Legouis has truly said “It uses from a heart truly deep and passionate and the love which is demanded is silent and forceful.” Various moods of the lover have been displayed successfully in the poem. The pay or light-hearted lover of the first section seems most serious in the second stanza. However lover in the final section is all fierce and determined. His sense of urgency finds its culminations in the triumphant assertion.
“Thus though, we cannot make our Sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.”
Thus in “To His Coy Mistress” Marvell has successfully capitalized the conventional classical carpe diem to enjoy life in the prime of life. However he has gone for above Elizabethan love poets who are swayed by the mere slogan – ‘seize the day’ and make the most of it. The Metaphysical tone and trend of the poem hardly escape our notice. The appeal of the lover is the appeal of the lover of Thomas Crew–
“O, love me then and now begin it.
Let us not loose the present minute.”
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