Words of Wisdom:

"Boys do have feelings, but like "who cares"!" - Jod

Theme of Coy Mistress

  • Date Submitted: 03/30/2010 04:27 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 51.9 
  • Words: 947
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Time is clearly the most important issue bothering the speaker of "To His Coy Mistress"; the subject spans the entire length of the piece, from the first line to the forty-sixth. The most obvious relationship to time here is that this work is a traditional carpe diem poem, which means that it encourages the listener to "seize the day" - to make the most of today and not put off action until tomorrow. In this particular case, the speaker is addressing a woman with whom he wants to have sex. He uses the threat of what time will do to her "quaint honor" and "long-preserved virginity" to convince her to give both up to him before they decay. A psychological interpretation - looking beneath the surface of the speaker's claims to see intentions that he himself is not aware of - might find the situation to be the reverse of what it seems: instead of using the idea of time to get the sex he desires, he might be using sex to push away his own awareness of time's passing. The first section of the poem, lines 1 through 20, describes an idyllic fantasy of how the speaker would behave if time had no effect, while the second part (lines 21-32) presents time's effects in the most gruesome terms conceivable. In the last section, the speaker concocts a scheme to battle time's passage with a cannonball made up of "our sweetness." This tactic hints at desperation. It may be that he is overly anxious to take the woman's virginity and will therefore spin any elaborate hoax for which she might fall. Modern psychology, though, particularly the work of Carl Jung, might say that the fear of death the speaker stirs up is not just a ruse to weaken her defenses, it is a real fear, his fear. The poem's last image, of making the sun (representing time) run, indicates a need for distraction that applies as easily to this speaker's forty-six-line plea as it does to the person he is trying to convince.
Love and Passion
"To His Coy Mistress" begins as a...

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