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To His Coy Mistress 2 Essay, Research Paper

To His Coy Mistress

” To His Coy Mistress,” a poem by Andrew Marvell, generates an understanding of death and paradox through the expressive language of the speaker to the mistress. In the poem, he implements metaphors with hypothetical situations while describing his love for her in a timeless world. He clearly explains that he would love and adore her immensely, then suddenly changes his demeanor by acknowledging that a timeless world does not exist. This poem expresses appreciation for death and paradox through the demeanor, actions and words of the poet.

The speaker begins his serenade in the first stanza by stating “Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime” (1-2). The speaker is informing his mistress that if he had all the time in the world, he would spend it adoring every part of her body. This quote in the poem foreshadows an appreciation of paradox for the reader since the speaker is talking of a timeless world that does not exist. The speaker tells the mistress how long his love will grow, and how vast it will become. He changes his tone after this stanza in order to effectively explain why he is unable to love her in such a manner: “But at my back I always hear / Time’s wing d chariot hurrying near; / And yonder all before us lie / Deserts of vast eternity” (21-24). This is another paradoxical quote that the speaker utilizes to effectively develop appreciation for this poem. The speaker argues that the mistress should not waste her youth like those before who are unable to taste new experiences because they are now dead.

In the second stanza, the speaker utilizes paradox to convince the mistress further: “Thy beauty shall no more be found, / Nor, in they marble vault, shall sound / My echoing song; then worms shall try / that long-preserved virginity” (25-28). He is telling her that when she grows old and dies a virgin, she will lose her virginity to the worms that crawl through her body. He is saying to her that he should be the one to win her virginity, not the worms. This is another great paradoxical quote from the poem explaining the gruesome atmospheric details of death in a grave. The speaker explains to the mistress that her beautiful body will soon be the victim of time: “And your quaint honor turn to dust, / And into ashes all my lust” (29-30). A clever paradox of age exposes the speaker’s true agenda to seduce the mistress. The lack of love due to age is a sad truth in life that almost every reader can identify with.

The speaker resorts to another paradox of death to persuade her: “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace” (31-32). This paradox explains death in a frightening but subtle way. He uses this line forcing her to think about the environment of a grave and the solitude that comes with death. People do not wish to think of their own grave therefore, the paradox of death in this quote is an unsettling one. According to Marvell’s speaker, time cannot be stopped: “Thus, though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run” (45-46). Ultimately, he attempts to persuade her to become intimate with him so that she may taste a new experience in life. The only thing that can stop the desires and infinite experiences in life is death.

This poem is perhaps the beginning of a love story. While the speaker is desperately seeking her virginity, the mistress is reluctant to give him this gift until she hears worthy reasoning. She is the mistress; therefore, she has the ability to control whether or not she will allow the speaker to pursue his love for her. The use of paradox and death are the key factors that allow the reader to identify with both characters in this poem. The speaker’s explanation of death at the mercy of time is indeed paradoxical. Death and paradox involving love can generate respect for the poem through the expressive examples used by the poet that relate to the reader.


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