To His Coy Mistress Analysis As a Metaphysical Poem

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Metaphysical school of poetry that had been introduced by Donne and was adopted by poets such as Herbert, Crashaw and Cowley forwarded an exquisite climate of thought. Andrew Marvell is considered as one of the finest poets of the metaphysical verse because of his predilection to wit, interest in argument, allusive style of writing and wonderful usage of metaphysical conceits. “To His Coy Mistress” is his most celebrated poem which showcases some of the most conformed traits of metaphysical poetry.


In this poem the poet’s beloved refrains from investing herself in his overtures for the gratification of their love owing to her esteemed concepts of modesty. The poet persuades his mistress of the reasonableness of his stand through sound arguments that are put forward in a neat syllogism. The first tire of the argument blinds the mistress with fancies of timeless love. The second segment shocks her into the reality that time, youth and beauty are transient and soon she will be stranded in “deserts of vast eternity”. The third tier provides a logical conclusion to the beloved’s dilemma of chastity by establishing a sensual participation in the frenzy of passion as the only remedy to overcome the corroding effects of time. Thus we see that the characteristic feature of a metaphysical poem which is an argumentative and analytical approach is essential to the poem’s basic situation here.

The poem is based on the age-old Carpe Diem theme which deals with the issue of brevity of life. This theme although being a very hackneyed one has been developed in a way that catches our attention because of the poet’s fresh take on the concept of defeating time with the help of human passion. This novelty of thought is another aspect of the poem’s meta-physicality.


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Like a typical metaphysical poem, Coy Mistress has a dramatic opening – “Had we but world enough and time, this coyness lady were no crime”. This opening dramatically reverses the Puritanical concept of crime and virtue and defines virtuous coyness as “crime” since it creates a barrier against the fulfilment of love.

Marvell conjoins two contradictory emotions in this poem. Coy Mistress reveals a unique conjoining of seriousness with levity and cavalier excess with classical elegance and poise. In a typically metaphysical manner, the poet has controlled his passion through his intellect and the seriousness of his request is tempered by his light-heartedness.

The metaphysical conceits used in the poem are breathtaking. Marvell compares himself and his beloved to “amorous birds of prey” and the united force of the lovers is equated to a cannon ball which is strong enough to break through the “iron gates of life”. The Attachment of a time calendar to the traditional catalogue of praise is a startling hyperbole – “An age at least to every part”.

The poem’s meta-physicality increases because of its allusiveness that rests upon Marvell’s biblical as well as classical knowledge. References have been made to the biblical flood to emphasize upon eternal love and also to Greek Gods Chronos and Phoebus to shed light upon fleeting time as the devourer of human life.

Thus we may conclude that “To His Coy Mistress” is a brilliant piece of metaphysical poetry owing to its argumentative style that is coloured with wit and intellect. The poem’s originality of thought, perfect blend of emotional intensity and ironic wit along with startling conceits and allusions awards the poem a metaphysical appeal.

4 Comments
  1. shubhra priya says

    Shreya di it was a very useful article…will you plz help me on the other questions on to his coy mistress..It will be ur goodness.

  2. Sarbadaman Gop says

    Shreya Di I m a great devotee of u. Superb notes. Can u give me the note on Vaughan’s mysticism regarding “The Retreat “?

  3. Sarbadaman Gop says

    Shreya Di I m a great devotee of u . superb notes.

  4. LIza says

    shradha di thanks a lot for the notes……… thank u???

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