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Seize the Day

In: English and Literature

Submitted By emilydelorenzo
Words 1081
Pages 5
English 203.1
1 April 2013
Seize the Day
The metaphysical poet, Andrew Marvell, wrote the poem “To His Coy Mistress,” which is considered to be a seduction poem on the surface, but Marvell’s poem is about seizing the moment in life. Marvell uses figures of speech like metaphors, similes, and imagery to persuade the woman he loves to sleep with him, but he also wants to argue that life is short, and she should seize the day, both in life and sexually. The figures of speech that are in “To His Coy Mistress” enhance the themes of time, mortality, freedom and confinement, and sex, which makes the audience ponder the idea of carpe diem.
Time is one of the major themes of Marvell’s poem and time is also one of the major characters of the poem. Marvell uses an important figure of speech, personification, when he writes, “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near, (Stillinger 677.23)” and in that quote time is personified as a criminal that is pursuing the speaker. In the poem, there is a striking metaphor, “Deserts of vast eternity,” (677.24) where the speaker of this poem doesn’t compare eternity to deserts, but instead talks about deserts that are made out of eternity. Marvell uses this metaphor and the abstract idea, like time, to show that the desert is a symbol of emptiness and loneliness. The personification of time and the metaphor of eternity shows how time flies, and how time will pass you by, so seize the day.
Mortality, which is also known as death, is an intricate part of Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress,” because mortality receives attention for a whole stanza. In the poem, Marvell writes:
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave 's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.(677-678.21-32)
The vivid imagery of this stanza paints the picture of worms taking the virginity of the woman that the speaker loves, because he wants to show the woman that she should sleep with him before she dies and that no one will embrace her beauty in the grave, after death, except for worms. Marvell also uses an understatement when he says, “But none, I think, do there embrace,” (678.32) because Marvell and the speaker both know that no one will ever embrace someone in the grave. The graphic imagery of morality in Marvell’s poem causes the audience to evaluate how life is short and that people should do everything they can before death.
“To His Coy Mistress” portrays the theme of freedom and confinement, which is shown though beautiful language and imagery. For instance, when Marvell writes, “This coyness, Lady, were no crime,” (677.2) the word crime conjures up images of jails, and confinement, but as the poem continues, the crime of being coy is both against herself, and him, the speaker. Graveyard imagery is also used when Marvell writes, “in thy marble vault,” (678.26) because the marble vault represents the mistress’s closed, limited way of thinking about the world and the speaker thinks that the woman is trapped by her old-fashioned views, especially on sex. Marvell also combines freedom and confinement into one line, in the poem “To His Coy Mistress,” when Marvell writes, “Thorough the iron gates of life,” (678.44) which portrays great imagery and it shows the audience that the speaker thinks of life as prison, and he wants to escape. The speaker wants to transform life into a free place, where he is able to freely do as he pleases, along with the woman.
Sex is one of the largest themes in Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress.” One of the poem’s most famous passages is, “My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires, and more slow,” (lines 11-12) and this is popular because the imagery portrays a vegetable, like bean vines, growing upward and intertwining with each other. Another example of sex in the poem is when Marvell writes, “…then worms shall try, That long preserved virginity,” (678.27-28) because here, the speaker, in a characteristic hyperbole, claims that, if the mistress doesn’t have sex with him, she will remain a virgin forever. However when Marvell writes, “And into ashes all my lust,” (678.30) the speaker reveals that he is a virgin, too, and that he only wants to have sex with the mistress. The speaker also says that all his lust will turn to ashes when he dies, so if the woman does not have sex with him then when she dies a virgin, so will the speaker. One of the most important sections of the poem that shows the love and desire of the speaker for the woman he loves is when Marvell says:
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate. (677.13-20)
The quote emphasizes that the speaker thinks that the women he loves is beautiful, and that he would catalog he beauty and her beautiful body for hundreds of years, if he had all the time in the world. Through Marvell’s them of sex, the speaker shows his love and passion for the woman through appealing language and sensuous imagery . Carpe diem literally means seize the day and Andrew Marvell represents the idea of carpe diem through various figures of speech that enhance the themes, time, morality, freedom and confinement, and sex, in the poem “To His Coy Mistress.” The figures of speech, like metaphors, hyperboles, and mass imagery were used in Marvell’s poem to enhance the themes and the specific idea that time is short, so seize the day.

Works Cited
Stillinger, Jack, Deidre Lynch, Stephen Greenblatt, and M. H. Abrams. "To His Coy Mistress." The Norton anthology of English literature. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006. 677-678. Print.

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