To His Coy Mistress: Stanza Analysis And Symbolism In A Poem
- Chariot – an old carriage pulled by horses, used in ancients’ wars.
- Coy- originally defined as “shy”, it was later adapted to someone who “pretends” to be shy,
- Yonder – used to specify something that’s within the sight
- Vast – immense, of very great quantity
In his three-stanza poem, “to his coy mistress” Marvell Andrew paints a picture with contrast images of idealism and realism to illustrate the transience of life and how time is pursuing us and impelling us to our end before we have fulfilled our desires. In Marvell’s poem, the speaker describes his great feelings for a woman. Throughout the poem, he attempts to persuade his beloved to act upon her passion. He reasons that life is too short and that there’s not enough time for him to love all of her if they wait any longer.
In the first stanza the speaker posits impossible stretches of time and begins the poem by creating a detailed and elaborate image of the many things he would do to honour her if they had all the time in the world. He then uses hyperboles to imply that he could love her from ten years before the Biblical flood was narrated and she, “if she pleases”, could say no to his advances up until the “conversion of the Jews,” which. He also uses metaphors such as “vegetable love” to propose a slow and steady growth that might increase to vast proportions, and this would allow him to admire her features in increments of hundreds of years.
In the second section, the poem shifts between idealism and realism. The speaker quotes “Time’s winged chariot is always near” disclosing that they don’t have enough time and life is too short. The persona of the poem drives extreme notions when the graphic image of her death is painted. He warns her that her long perceived virginity would be food for the worms when she dies and that her body will lie in the grave for eternity as it turns to dust.
The third and final section of the poem shifts into a thoroughgoing plea and display of poetic prowess. In this very last stanza, the speaker seems to have overcome his fear of time, he uses delicious metaphors and symbolism to present the idea of making prey upon time. He continues to encourage his beloved to be with him while they still can.
Though this poem appeared rather sexual, I believe that it has a concealed message that is beyond comprehension. Now that I have “briefly” summarized the content of each section from the poem, I can now evidently see that it could have multiple meanings, the first one being the rush of time. We by now know the speakers fear of time, he is always implying, normally and metaphorically, how time is rushing and how time is finite and limited. “At my back I always hear, times winged chariot is near”. In, this poem time is personified as being the enemy of the lovers, the speaker knows time brings death. “though we cannot make our sun still, yet we will make him run”, I find these last two lines beautiful, because they indicate a change in character, as if the speaker is not afraid anymore. Also, here the sun could symbolize “time”, saying we cant make time stand still, but well make it run buy enjoying the most of life.
The intent could also be to make the most out of the present, the speaker is warning his mistress that time does not wait around for anyone and is encouraging her to live life to the fullest.
- “amorous birds of prey” is one of the many symbolisms used in this poem. The definition of “Birds of prey” is a big bird/hawk that feeds on animal flesh. This image of hawks ripping flesh could represent a shift in the speaker’s relationship to time, as they love each other, the lovely birds of prey devours time whole and rather them being times prey, they could prey upon time.
- “the iron gates of life” the image of iron gates evokes something closed off behind imposing barrier. There’s a barrier the lovers must overcome in order to enjoy life. They will not find happiness in passive waiting but need to seize the day.