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“To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell Review

To His Coy Mistress, written by the 17th century English poet Andrew Marvell, is an extremely interesting blend of two poetic genres. On the one hand, this poem is written as an appeal to a mistress in an attempt to gain favor from her, as evidenced by the title of the poem. However, Marvell belongs to the classical art school of metaphysical poets, which is the fact that gives the appeal in this poem an exceptional color. The metaphysical poetry of the 17th century is characterized by a special grandeur of poetic thinking, which sought to give embodiment to large symbolic and philosophical concepts. Metaphysicians strove as far as possible to distance themselves from traditionally earthly poetic themes and to talk about global categories such as religion and nature.

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As one can see, this poem does not quite fit into the category of metaphysical poetry from the point of view of the author’s intentions. However, in the process of reading the poem, it becomes clear that the author is aware of the distance between himself and the object of his adoration from the position of philosophical categories. This poem contains at its core the idea of ​​the need to appreciate life and capture the moment. The metaphysical poet realizes how fleeting life is and how much, therefore, one can miss in it or simply waste time. That is why the poem begins with a detailed rhetorical figure designed to express how little time they really have to show each other their real emotions. “My vegetable Love should grow Vaster than Empires, and more slow,” asserts the lyrical subject of the poem (Marvell, 1956). This juxtaposition of love with a vegetable should demonstrate lethargy, emotionlessness which ultimately expresses passion if not given realization.

Further, the poet resorts to grandiose hyperboles, saying that it will take him hundreds and thousands of years to approach each part of the body of his beloved. This formulation of the problem with its focus on eternity is a feature of the metaphysical poetic language and imagery. Metaphysics implies a perception that transcends the limitations of time and space and lathers in larger categories. In this particular poem, time is exaggerated in order to express the real insignificance of man in the face of the eternal. Using a rhetorical appeal to his beloved in this way, the poet allows his addressee as well as the reader to realize the value of the time given to us for enjoying life. Moreover, Marvell demonstrates in colorful visual images how the beauty of his beloved will fade and how her innocence will be given up for desecration to the worms that act as a metaphor for death in the poem.

Thus, the poem directly seeks to horrify the reader with the fact that beauty, if it is not perceived by someone else, will be given into the hands of death. The grave for the author is primarily a place in which human contact is impossible. This is what distinguishes life from death, according to Marvel, the impossibility of expressing love between people by such simple and human means. That is why his call to his beloved is filled with a deep philosophical love for life, since life may also be understood as the time allotted to people for each other.


Marvell, A. (1956). To his coy mistress. In MacDonald, Hugh (ed.). Poems of Andrew Marvell (2nd ed.). Harvard University Press, 21–22.

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