Comparison of Eliot’s and Marvell’s Poems

Table of Content

Thesis: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell are two poems that portray the desire to express love while constrained by Father Time. However, the ways in which the protagonists of each poem confront this idea are vastly different.

Introduction to the Problem:

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This paper aims to compare the poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell.


B. Thesis Statement

II – Discussion of the Poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

What is the poem about?

B. General Theme and Mood

C. Cited Illustration

III – Discussion of the poem To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell.

What is the poem about?

B. General Theme and Mood

C. Cited Illustration

IV – Similarities of the Two Poems

A. Similarity in Theme or Subject

B. Similarities in the protagonist

Cited Examples:

There are differences between the two poems.

Differences in Theme and Mood:

B. Differences in protagonist.

C. Differences in Treatment of the Topic

Quoted examples from the poems.

VI – Conclusion

A. Summary of Argument

B. Thesis Statement


Love Poems: A Comparative Study

Many styles of love poems have evolved throughout the long history of poetry. Sonnets, ballads, and love songs are just a few examples. Some poems overflow with youth and vitality, while others promise eternity. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell both express a desire to convey love within the constraints of time, but their protagonists approach this idea in completely opposite ways.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a poem about a middle-aged man who struggles to express his love for any woman due to an inferior self-image. The poem is filled with metaphors that visualize the downtrodden feeling of the protagonist. For instance, “Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, the muttering retreats, of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels, and sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells” (Eliot). This imagery portrays a man who believes he belongs to the poor side of town where outcasts usually reside.The protagonist’s image of women contrasts harshly with his self-image. “In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.” This means that he admires women who enjoy discussing lofty subjects and therefore will not likely talk about or to him.This poem was written during Eliot’s religious crisis and nervous breakdown in the early twentieth century when Modernism in poetry was new. Irony was commonly found in poetry at this time (Washington State University). It is ironic that this poem is called a love song but has a pessimistic mood instead of being romantic. There is no romance yet; Prufrock only wants to express his love for the woman he chooses (Vanderbilt University).Furthermore, borrowing lines from Dante’s Inferno intensifies feelings of gloom experienced by Prufrock throughout the poem.

To His Coy Mistress” is a Metaphysical poem in which Marvell’s protagonist woos his lady love with the attitude of Cavalier poets, according to the Online Britannica Encyclopedia. Unlike other Metaphysical poetry, it is secular and courtier in style. In the poem, a man tries to seduce a young lady by enumerating all the advantages of responding to his attentions and offerings of love while highlighting the disadvantages of saying no. He expresses his desires confidently and forcefully, stating “An hundred years should go to praise thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, but thirty thousand to the rest.” (Marvell) The love poem has vivid descriptions of making love written in the 17th century that are supposed to be addressed to a maiden. The suitor tries persuading her that if she continues playing games, she will die a virgin with only worms enjoying her beauty. This is presumptuous as he seems convinced that if she does not make love with him, she will never make love with anyone else.The protagonist may be one of her suitors who perseveres despite suspecting that his lady love pretends not matching his affections due either out of respect for propriety or an attempt at becoming more provocative. Although he appears rushed when expressing himself, he contradicts this urgency by saying “I would love you ten years before the Flood; and you should refuse till the conversion of Jews if you please.” (Marvell) This implies that he will continue pursuing her until the end of time.The protagonist balances his willingness by constantly reminding her that “but at my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” (Marvell) Time is still essential as they both must give in before death claims them both.


The two poems being discussed are love poems, and they both express love in their own unique way. Although Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is unconventional, it still conveys a desire to declare love. Love stories and poems do not always have happy endings or project a tender mood, as each one is different from the other.

“To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell is a love poem that reminds us of Cavalier poetry where women are addressed directly. Both poems emphasize time as well. Marvell’s protagonist uses time as his main argument for pursuing the love of the maiden until the end of time while also presenting the problems of waiting too long.

As mentioned earlier, the suitor presents the problem of time to his maiden and argues that it is better to make love than remain a virgin until death: “And your quaint honour turn to dust, and into ashes all my lust. The grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace.” (Marvell)

He is drawing on the classic topos known as carpe diem, or ‘seize the day’, which is closely related to memento mori – a reminder that we shall all die. Although memento mori is often used in a serious context to provoke grave thoughts, Marvell uses it here to encourage his mistress to enjoy his love while they are both young and alive.” (Suite101)

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” incorporates time through the repetition of the phrase “There will be time.” The phrase appears five times in the poem, possibly indicating hesitation on Prufrock’s part or simply listing things he intends to do. The repetition slows down the poem’s pace, creating a sense of gloom and sluggishness.

J. Alfred Prufrock is a reference to the protagonist in T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Some scholars believe that the phrase also alludes to Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress.”


Both poems are dubbed as love songs, and readers may expect to hear the point of view of each woman in question. However, neither poem shows the emotions of the lady to whom love is offered. The reader does not get to know the response of the “coy mistress” to the overconfident and somewhat indecent proposal since it is an offering to a maiden. Meanwhile, Prufrock has not even confessed his love yet. The reader is given possible reactions from the lady in question due to Prufrock’s own interpretation of his romantic situation, which is rather dismal. Another similarity between these two love poems is that they are both monologues; only one side of this love affair” is made known to readers.

The similarities of the two poems have been discussed, but the differences are more evident. The poems are centuries apart and represent different eras in poetry. Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” is written in the 17th century during a time when Metaphysical poetry was quite popular. Meanwhile, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is written in the early 20th century at the forefront of Modernism. Therefore, without looking at the poems’ themes and stories, their styles differ from each other.

Although both poems are full of metaphors and allusions, “To His Coy Mistress” uses witty monologue that is often very direct. On the other hand, T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is very descriptive in terms of the narrator’s state of being. The reader gets to feel Prufrock’s depressing state while also experiencing strong irony as it’s tagged as a love poem which evokes Modernism.

When looking at the protagonists of the poems, who also give narration or monologue, obvious contrasts in their personalities can be noticed. The suitor addressing his coy mistress” is confident and in high spirits. He presents his love with the assumption that he can be accepted if only his mistress will be true to herself. His proposal is bold and insolent; it will only be received well if he is right and the lady returns his affections, even his desires. Meanwhile, Prufrock has such a low opinion of himself that he cannot bring himself to confess his love to any woman.


“And I have known the arms already, known them all—

Arms that are bare, white, and braceleted.

But in the lamplight, she was downed with light brown hair!

It is the scent of perfume emanating from a dress.

Why am I digressing?

Arms that lie on a table or wrap around a shawl.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin?” asked Eliot.

The above quote shows how Prufrock regards women and presents his hesitations and fears. The word presume” emphasizes his low self-esteem, as he has made himself lowly before his image of a lady from an upper-class background. This lady is described as “braceleted,” “white,” and perfumed. While Prufrock may not have the courage to present his attentions to any woman he esteems, his lowly presentation of himself also demonstrates utter respect for women, albeit in the extreme.

Yet another difference is in the treatment of love poetry. Marvell’s poem is very similar to courtier’s love songs. Women are addressed frankly. To put it in a nutshell, the Mistress is no longer an impossibly chaste Goddess to be wooed with sighs, but a woman who may be spoken to in a forthright fashion. Though the poems written to her may be more important to the writer than she herself, there is no pretense that this is not the case” (Luminarium). Eliot’s poem, on the other hand, is an unconventional love poem. There isn’t any real love affair to talk about; Prufrock doesn’t even get around declaring his love due to his many insecurities.

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets and watched the smoke that rises from the pipes of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?” Prufrock attempts to contemplate how he should approach the woman he desires to court but ultimately decides against it.

As a conclusion, the love poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell may differ in how the two suitors behave when in love, but both recognize the role of time in their declaration. However, while Marvell’s suitor races against time, Eliot’s Prufrock delays any type of courtship due to his low self-esteem.


Works Cited:

Eliot, T.S. wrote The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

The Luminarium website offers an anthology of English literature. The website can be accessed at and was last updated on October 22, 2007.

Marvell, Andrew’s poem To His Coy Mistress.

Visit the Online Britannica Encyclopedia to read about To His Coy Mistress.” The article was last updated on October 22, 2007 and can be found at

Suite101 presents British Poetry, featuring an article comparing To His Coy Mistress” and “The Flea.” The article was published on October 21, 2007 and can be found at

Representative Poetry Online is a collection of poems curated by the University of Toronto Libraries. This resource can be accessed through their website, with the specific link being The page was last updated on October 21, 2007.

Vanderbilt University, October 22nd, 2007. Retrieved from

Washington State University presents T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1919).

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Comparison of Eliot’s and Marvell’s Poems. (2016, Sep 10). Retrieved from

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