The first two lines of Andrew Marvell's To his Coy Mistress lead readers into a poem of persuasion, in which the speaker attempts to convince a mistress to love him, or, more to the point, to enter into a sexual relationship with him. "Had we but World enough, and Time, / This coyness Lady were no crime." His point - though softened with grammar choice - is that these lovers do not have world enough or time enough to wait for sex. Therefore the lady's coyness is in fact a crime. From these two lines alone, the reader understands the speaker's goal. The question becomes: How will he obtain it? Many critics of Marvell's poem agree that its three stanzas outline clear turns in logic that the speaker uses. The first two lines lead us into a stanza describing a world in which the lovers live forever, the man courting his mistress eternally. He appeals to the woman's desire for control and flattery. The second stanza begins with a "But" that leaps off the page. Here, the speaker reverses his logic and tries to make the real world with limited time seem problematic and even repulsive to the mistress. Her dream world may be more desirable, but it is unattainable. In the final stanza, he suggests that there is something the two of them can do to make use of their time on earth: to experience their love through sex. It is a pity that readers cannot know the mistress's answer, for the poem poses a persuasive argument, without using some of the typical poetic conceits of love poems in Marvell's time.
Marvell starts by appealing to the woman's sentiments, as every smart man who wants something from a woman should do. He claims he would think about her while they are apart: "Thou by the Indian Ganges side / Should'st Rubies find: I by the Tide of Humber / would complain..." In this dream world, distance does nothing to mar the speaker's love for his mistress. The speaker chooses to glorify the position of the woman, who finds rubies where she dwells. In comparison, the...
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