Synopsis of To his Coy Mistress

A reluctant lady

Marvell's To his Coy Mistress is one of the best known Metaphysical love poems. Like several other Metaphysical love poems, this is to a ‘supposed' mistress, here portrayed as very shy, or at least, reluctant. There is a conciseness and neatness about the verse, which is written in Marvell's favourite metre, the iambic tetrameter couplet form. Marvell, possibly because he was as good at writing poetry in Latin as in English, also has a cosmopolitan polish and epigrammatic wit in his language that Donne lacks.

The transience of life

For all the apparent playfulness, and its satire of Elizabethan conventional love poetry, the poem is deadly serious as it tackles the great Elizabethan theme of the transience of life. Time is the great enemy of love. Half a century after the Elizabethan era, Marvell's poetry still has the same intensity.

Investigating To his Coy Mistress
  • Generally speaking, why should time be seen as the great enemy of love?
  • Look up the phrase carpe diem
    • What does it mean?
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