Analysis: Seize the Day

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"Seize the day." The form of carpe diem poetry is generally consistent, almost to the point of being predictable. Though Andrew Marvell works with the same concepts, his modifications to them were well-considered. In "To His Coy Mistress," Marvell makes use of allusion, metaphor, and grand imagery in order to convey a mood of majestic endurance and innovatively convey the carpe diem motif. In "To his Coy Mistress," Marvell uses images and tools stress how he wishes his love to be– tranquil and drawn out. Rather than beginning with a focus on the concept of death, he opens the poem with the lines, "Had we but world enough, and time / This coyness, lady, were no crime" (ll. 1-2) He will later take on the trappings of the carpe diem poem, but his focus will then be on the grandeur and passion of love, rather than its instability. To begin to slow the passage of time in his poem, Marvell makes references to past and future events on a grand scale. His allusions to religious scripture early on in the poem give the impression of vast ages passing, spanning most of time itself. ...I would

Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews. (ll. 7-10)

The period from ten years before the flood until the conversion of the Jews crosses a massive amount of time. This allusion is one of the several techniques Marvell uses to turn the focus away from impending death to an ideal world without it. Another technique is the metaphor. Lines 11-12 read, "My vegetable love should grow / Vaster than empires, and more slow." The first line makes the narrator's love a slow-growing vegetable, implying really "plant" more than specifically garden vegetable. This image is of an all-conquering vine which insidiously works its way through a forest or field, overtaking incredible spaces until it becomes "vaster than empires." Such a growth would take far longer than humans have to live– it is a job for the enduring vegetable...
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