Imagery and symbolism in To his Coy Mistress

Winged chariotLike Donne's poetry, Marvell's poetry is packed with images. We have examined just a few: the vegetable love; ‘Times winged Charriot'; and the birds of prey, for example. In one sense, the conceits are not difficult, or based on some arcane knowledge of science or philosophy, as Donne's sometimes are. However, they are so loaded with meaning and associations, that it can take time to appreciate their full impact.


The images of part two are probably the most memorable and dramatic. The picture of

Worms shall try
That long preserv'd Virginity

has a macabre quality. Hamlet, too, talks of worms eating corpses, but here the image is sexualised and thus, becomes part of the speaker's arguement: it is pointless to preserve her viginity from him, as it will be violated after death by worms. (For a later poem which likewise sexualises worms, see Blake's O rose thou art sick.)

Investigating To his Coy Mistress
  • What images in To his Coy Mistress do you find the most striking?
  • Donne often conducts his arguments through images
    • Is that what Marvell does?
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