Write a critical appreciation of ‘To His Coy Mistress’.

“To His Coy Mistress,” a poem by Andrew Marvell, written in the 17th century, is a striking example of metaphysical poetry. This genre is known for its witty wordplay, complex imagery, and the use of metaphysical conceits – extended metaphors that link seemingly unrelated ideas.

The poem is essentially a carpe diem poem, a Latin phrase meaning “seize the day.” Marvell uses this theme to present a powerful argument to his mistress, urging her to cast aside her coyness and reluctance and to embrace the pleasures of love while they are still young and alive.

Structure and Form

“To His Coy Mistress” is a dramatic monologue, written in iambic tetrameter. The poem is divided into three distinct sections. The first section presents a hypothetical scenario where time is abundant, allowing the speaker to adore his mistress endlessly. The second part introduces a shift in tone, highlighting the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The third part presents a resolution, urging immediate action to seize the fleeting moments of life and love.

Imagery and Metaphysical Conceits

Marvell is masterful in his use of imagery and metaphysical conceits. He uses grand and hyperbolic images, such as his love growing “vaster than empires,” and a vegetable love that should grow “vaster than empires, and more slow.” These exaggerated metaphors serve to humorously illustrate the vastness and intensity of his love.

In the second stanza, the imagery becomes darker, with references to time’s winged chariot hurrying near and desolate eternity where no beauty survives. This juxtaposition of the idealistic and the macabre is a hallmark of metaphysical poetry.

Themes and Messages

The central theme of the poem is the transience of life and the urgency of love and pleasure. Marvell skillfully blends the sensual with the philosophical, presenting an argument that is as intellectually engaging as it is emotionally persuasive.

“To His Coy Mistress” also explores the nature of time and its power over human life. Marvell presents time as both a motivator and a destroyer, urging the mistress to act before time renders them powerless.

Language and Tone

The language of the poem is witty, playful, and sometimes ironic. Marvell employs a conversational tone that belies the complexity of his arguments and metaphors. This accessibility of language allows the poem to remain engaging and relevant, despite its age.


“To His Coy Mistress” is a masterful blend of wit, imagery, and argument. Marvell uses the metaphysical conceit not merely as a display of wit but as a tool to explore deeper themes of time, love, and mortality. The poem remains a celebrated example of metaphysical poetry, showcasing Marvell’s skill as a poet and a thinker.

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