Q. Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” Essay

“To His Coy Mistress” is primarily the author, Andrew Marvell, trying to convince and seduce “his coy mistress”, into having intimate relations with him. The poem has three stanzas; each with a different purpose: the first stanza gently and subtly flatters his mistress, using positive diction and images to show, how Marvell wishes he could love her for all of eternity; the second stanza, however, uses imagery to show how time is moving fast and also, strongly negative diction and images to show how life must be lived happily, for there is no chance to after death; the last stanza, the conclusion of the poem, uses quite sexual images to tell his mistress, that because time is limited, they should make the most of it, and enjoy life’s intimate pleasures together.

Imagery and diction have been used effectively throughout the poem, to achieve the author’s purpose, of seducing this lady. The author also conveys a theme throughout the poem; life is short, your time on earth is limited, and therefore we must make the most of life’s pleasures while we still can.

Analysis of the Poem

  • In the first stanza, imagery and diction, flatters this lady, Andrew Marvell wishes to seduce, and depicts his great and ever-growing love for her.


Marvell begins by describing how ideally he would have “world enough and time” to love this lady. They would “sit down, and think which way to walk and pass [their] long love’s day.” Imagery shows them taking their love very slowly. This image is created by diction with relaxed and slow connotations, such as “sit down”, and “walk.” The diction within that line, also creates alliteration, “which way to walk”, and also, “long love’s day;” this alliteration, and the long vowel sounds in “way”, “walk”, and “long”, creates a slow and steady rhythm, and a relaxed mood and tone to the stanza, which allows the author to convey to “his mistress” that he wishes they could take their love slowly and steadily.

Later on in the stanza, he uses diction to create images, to flatter “his mistress.” “Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side shouldst rubies find; I by the tide of the Humber would complain.” The imagery shows how he sees his mistress as exotic, by comparing her to the Indian Ganges’, which at that time, was an faraway and exotic place; while, comparing himself with “the Humber”, he views himself as ordinary, compared to her. The effect is that it fulfils the author’s purpose for it, which was to flatter this lady. The diction also helps him achieve this, “shouldst rubies find”; rubies are precious and beautiful, and by using this diction, he again flatters her, by describing how beautiful and precious she is to him.

In the first stanza the author has used diction and imagery effectively to create a relaxed and easy mood and tone, to show how the author wishes he can just slowly and eternally love this woman; a “state” which she “deserves.” He also achieves his purpose of gracefully complementing this lady on her beauty, in more ways than physically.


  • In the next stanza, Marvell uses diction and imagery to show how there is nothing to be enjoyed in the eternity of death, and how death is a lonely place, therefore another person’s love must be experienced during life. He tells us that “at [his] back [he] always hears Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near.” “Winged”: this diction gives us an impression that the “chariot” is quick, and therefore the imagery, created by the personification of “Time”, shows that time travels quickly; life is short. “Yonder before us lie deserts of vast eternity.” I believe the “deserts of vast eternity” metaphorically symbolises death. “Deserts” suggests lifeless, desolate; while “vast eternity” uses long vowels sounds in “vast”, combined with the ’e’ sound being repeated and carried on at the end, in “eternity”.

The combined effect of the diction: an image, showing the boring, lifelessness of death. This is summed up at the end of the stanza: “the grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace:” love and its pleasures may only be experience during life. He also tries to convince “his mistress”, that keeping her virginity, is a silly thing to do. Marvell refers to “long preserved virginity” as a “quaint honour”; the choice of diction, by using quaint, shows the author’s negative tone towards keeping your “virginity”: it is too old-fashioned, odd, and somewhat of a joke. The diction and imagery in this paragraph show us that life must be enjoyed, for such pleasures do not exist after death.

  • In the last paragraph, Marvell, uses sexual, passionate diction and imagery to show that to enjoy life to the fullest, they must have intimate relations together. “Now therefore, while the youthful hue sit on the skin like morning dew, and while thy willing soul transpires at every pore with instant fires”; the simile creates an image, showing us that this lady is physically young, and the metaphor shows us that she is either blushing, or seems to be very excited, or both. Marvell uses this imagery to subtly tell this young woman, that it is obvious, she wants the same as him.

“Now let us sport us while we may, and now like amorous birds of prey”; the diction, amorous, has very passionate connotations, even more so than love, and the simile, like birds of prey, suggests a physical side of love, and creates an image of a fearless bird, diving as soon as it sees a chance for kill; therefore the image shows us, that while we are able to, we must make the most of the physical and passionate pleasures of life, without too much concern, and also most importantly, as soon as we may. The tone and mood, created by the diction and images, in the paragraph is very positive, and passionate, and its purpose is to convince “his mistress” that what he is suggesting, is the right thing to do, and to do so without any worries, and as soon as possible. We must enjoy the pleasures of life, while we may, for that is impossible after death.


Andrew Marvell effectively uses diction and imagery throughout this poem, to convince and seduce a young lady, into having physical relations with him. He uses diction and imagery in the first paragraph, showing how, greatly he loves her, and how willing he is to only love in a non-physical way, till the “last age” had they all of eternity. However, in the second paragraph, negative diction and images, show us that time is limited, and the pleasures of life, cannot be found in after death; therefore we must enjoy them while we live. The third and final paragraph, is the conclusion to Marvell’s argument; he uses passion filled images and diction, to show that they should therefore engage in a physical and intimate relationship, for this maybe the only opportunity they ever get. A theme conveyed is that we must enjoy all of life’s pleasures, for we only get one chance to live.

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