The Non-Discriminatory Nature of Time
in Andrew Marvell’s
“To His Coy Mistress”
Time passes. Its journey is oblivious to power, weakness, beauty, or mercy. The nature of time itself lies in its unrelenting progression through life, until we are removed from it’s favor and then wither and die. The purpose of most carpe diem poetry is to draw a character’s attention (usually the female) to the pressing nature of time’s progress, as well as illustrating the bountiful rewards of seizing the moment and giving into the momentary passions of life. Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” is a classic example of carpe diem poetry, exemplifying the foreboding nature of time. It’s distinction from similar works, however, lies in its inherent ability to express the ominous nature of time’s advancement in terms of both the male and female’s perspectives. Rather than lament about missed opportunities, “To His Coy Mistress” actually serves to force one to consider how we compartmentalize time into stages of life, and thus commit ourselves to its mercy without allowing ourselves to relish its immediate rewards. Marvell’s sense of time affects both his characters in unique ways, and therefore unites their plight as a human cause rather than a gender based issue. Andrew Marvell expresses this point by structuring his poem into three components that propose the issues of time’s existence, its limited availability, and finally a solution of sorts. The first section of “To His Coy Mistress” serves the task of identifying that time is a limited commodity, and thus can not be wasted. Immediately the speaker states openly that “Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime” (1-2). The implication here, if taken at face value, suggests that the mistress’ coyness is a crime only because of the lack of time available. The...
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