‘To His Coy Mistress’ as Carpe Diem Poem

The term "carpe diem" means "seize the day"; or, less literally, "make the most out of the time we have." The phrase is often credited to the Roman poet Horace. It's a pretty common sentiment in literature. Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is built on ‘Crape-Dime’ theme. In his poem we find a lover more active in the courtship urges his lady-love to make love at her youth. The shy mistress remains always from the immediate response but the lover builds the logic of syllogism and concludes that the only way of courtship is enjoying life while ones are young.

"To His Coy Mistress" opens famously with the assertion that, if we had all the time in the world, we would have no need to hurry with our passion:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.

The second section counters this first section by making clear that we, in fact, do not have al the time in the world:

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;

The third and final section of the poem brings this argument to a close ("therefore") by urging the "coy mistress" to act with him now on their love:

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

These assumed prepositions are used to awaken the lady-love from her negation to physical union out of her shyness. The only object as we understand is to enjoy the bliss of mutual love hence the ‘Carpe-Diem’ theme becomes the supreme goal.

The second stanza introduces the reality of life. In the real world the lover and the lady-love are placed in a transient or they could surely be devoured by time and the lady-love would grow and die. The lover would not be able to make love in the ‘marble vault’. Her long preserved virginity would be tasted by warms. Again the lover can feel and it is sure that the lady-love has her ‘quaint honour’. She is within full of desire of love-making. But for her shyness she is simply making a ‘crime’.

Here once again we find that all arguments are made to show the lady-love the reality of life and to make her conscious of what she should do. The concept ‘Crape-Diem’ has been built on argument.

The concluding stanza becomes a conclusion of the lover. And the conclusion is drawn from the first two stanzas. As life is not placed in eternity and as the lover and the lady-love would grow and die, so they should not loss a single moment of youth. For, youth is fast-fading. This idea has been decorated, with a number of images as ‘willing soul’, (transpires) ‘instant fires’, ‘amourous birds of prey’, ‘one ball’, ‘rough strife’, ‘iron gates of life’. These images are suggestive to signify the quick and violent love-making. Besides, during the love-making the lover and the lady-love would be forgetful the effect of time upon them aesthetic delight in which they would be dipped into ecstasy would be to them the highest bliss of the mundane existence,

“Thus though we cannot make our sun

Stand still yet we make him run”

Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a logical exhibition of carpe-diem theme. In this lyric Marvell avoiding the emotional outburst of his predecessors, analyzes, explains, and concludes the essence of ‘Carpe-Diem’. The couplets in iambic tetrameter (four strong beats to a line), distributed in three symmetrical stanzas, achieve a rare elegance. Here is rhetoric put to persuasive use. The words are those of a lover who wants to enlist the beloved in a triumphant conspiracy of two. Thus we see that “To His Coy Mistress” is a startling piece of carpe diem poetry which deals with the issue of speeding, ravaging Time. The poet has used the scare of Time – the devourer as a weapon here to intensify the pleasures of mortal life. Marvell proves that humans can deal with the corroding influence of time on human life by an expanse of the intensity of their act of love which is also the act of life.

Last modified: Friday, 21 July 2017, 12:32 PM