`To His Coy Mistress` and `A Late Aubade`
Andrew Marvell is one of the greatest metaphysical writers of the 17th century His reputation as a lyric poet is built on ‘To His Coy Mistress’, a classic in metaphysical poetry, ranks close to the best secular poems of John Donne. He has written lyrical verses, odes and political verse satires. Richard Wilbur is the greatest living English-language poet. His poetic career ranges from 1943-2004. He offered language that delights and instructs, though it does not instructs by preaching rather by clarification. One of the best love poems written by him is ‘A Late Aubade’.
In the poem ‘To Hi Coy Mistress’, the poet delves into the mind of the young lover and expresses his plea to his coy mistress to accept his declaration of love. Since youth and beauty are transient, his lady should not be shy but take advantage of the moment and utilize the time in loving each other. He farther says that if they had time, he would love her ten years before the flood and she can refuse till all the Jews gets converted. (The ‘flood’ which he mentions in the poem refers to Noah, a part of the Genesis in the bible. The flood is supposed to happen sometime after creation. Most Jews were never converted. The conversion of the Jews in supposed to happen before Armageddon). He would court her for ages by praising her beautiful features and different body parts for hundreds and thousands of years. However time is quickly passing by: Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near’. This line has a link to Roman mythology, where Apollo’s flying chariot drove the sun. It refers to the power of time. Humans are mortals and with passage of time they will get old and die. So they should not delay any more and take advantage of their ‘youthful hue’ and their ‘instant fires’ of passion. They should take pleasure by fulfilling their physical desires and behave like ‘amorous birds of prey’. They cannot make the ‘Time’ ‘stand still’ but they will enjoy the pleasures of life with such vigor and zeal that they will make ‘Time’ run to catch up with them.
‘To his Coy Mistress’ is a metaphysical poem. In this poem, a metaphysical or abstract quality is compared to a concrete or physical object. The poet compares ‘love’ to a ‘vegetable’. Metaphysical poetry usually ridicules the idealized romantic poetry by using crude or shocking imagery. Marvell uses the images of ‘worms’ in these lines: “then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity”, (lines 27-28) to criticize idealized romantic poetry. This genre of poetry expresses personal or private feeling and there is gross exaggeration or use of hyperboles. In the poem, the lover expresses his personal feelings of love and passions for his beloved. There is lot of exaggerations used in the passage where he wants to praise the beauty of his lady and her heart for ages. Like metaphysical poetry, the poem presents a logical argument. The young lover is ready to court his lady for decades or even centuries if he has enough time and if they remained young for ever but time is passing swiftly. So they should enjoy the physical pleasures by coming close to each other without much ado.
Marvell occasionally uses difficult language. He employs a formal language in the poem in his use of words like ‘Thy’, Thou’ and ‘Thine’. He alludes to biblical history when he refers to ‘the flood’ and ‘conversion of the Jews’. The diction in the final section is playful and ornamented. The language is characterized by sweetness and a flaring passion. The tone of the poem differs from being flattering to being melancholy but ends with a passionate tone. The poet has used a lot of imagery in the poem. There is exotic imagery in the first section of the poem in the use of words like ‘rubies’ and ‘empires’. In the second section, the imagery used is of lifelessness: ‘Desserts of vast eternity’. There are words like ‘worms’, ‘dust’, and ‘ashes’. In the final section, the poet uses the imagery of fierce passions: ‘instant fires’, ‘amorous’ and ‘devour’. There are many metaphors in the poem like: ‘My vegetable love’, ‘Time’s wingèd chariot’ and ‘soul transpires / At every pore with instant fires’. Some examples of similes are: ‘the youthful hue / Sits on the skin like morning dew’, and ‘like amorous birds of prey’. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter with eight syllables, four feet per line. Each foot consists of an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. The last syllable of each consecutive lines rhymes. This is called a couplet: “Had we but world enough, and time,/This coyness, lady, were no crime”, (lines1-2).
‘An aubade’ is a poem or song where lovers separate at down. In the poem ‘A Late Aubade’ by Richard Wilbur, the poet addresses his song to the woman with whom he has spent the morning in bed. It is noon and the woman probably makes some gestures to get up, he tells her that if she was not in bed, she would involve herself in activities like sitting in a ‘carrel’, (a small room where one can study in private, e.g. in a library) turning ‘liver-spotted’ pages or through the elevator go towards ‘Ladies’ Apparel’ section. She may also do some gardening like plant a bed of salvia, launching, training a setter (a type of gun dog) or listening to lectures on Schoenberg. He says that all these activities would be a waste of time. He is thankful that the lady in question does not have such taste and would rather spend the time in bed and kiss him. The poet cannot imagine that it is so late, noon. For him, time flew as he has enjoyed the entire morning with this lady. He begs her to remain in his embrace and if she must go, she can wait for a little while and then go downstairs for some tasty snacks. The scene of the poem is domestic. The poet is telling his wife that it is better to spend the morning love-making with her husband than engaging in activities of self-improvement.
The diction used in the poem is informal. The language in the first section is descriptive of the household activities. In the final section, the diction changes to being playful. The tone of the poem is domestic and connubial. Initially it is argumentative where the husband gives reasons why his wife should be in bed with him. Towards the end of the poem, the tone changes, it is sweet and sensuous. The poem consists of seven quatrains with the first and the fourth lines and second and third lines rhyming. It is ‘abba’ rhyming, it is known as the envelope stanza or introverted quatrain. The poem abounds in images. The lines: “sitting in a carrel/Turning some liver-spotted page” has a concrete image which shows that his wife likes to study books; ‘a raucous bed’ uses an auditory term to describe beauty and color. The man is delighted by sensual communication which is topped by gourmet meal. There are many tactile images in phrases such as “lie in bed and kiss” “chilled wine”. Phrases and words like ‘blue cheese’, ‘crackers’, and ‘fine Ruddy-skinned pears’ appeal to the senses of touch and smell. ‘White wine’ and ‘blue cheese’ and ‘Ruddy-skinned pears’ together create a gustatory delight.
Both poems, ‘To his Coy Mistress’ and A Late Aubade’ are love poems. In ‘To his Coy Mistress’, Andrew Marvell writes about a young lover’s love and passion for his lady love. In ‘A Late Aubade’, Richard Wilbur writes about a husband’s love and passions for his wife. The theme of both poems is ‘carpe diem’ which means “seize the day”. In ‘To His Coy Mistress’, the lover wants his lady love to accept his love and enjoy each other physically and not to be hesitant or shy as beauty and youth are transient. Time is passing swiftly, so they should indulge themselves in physical pursuits and enjoy themselves. In ‘A Late Abode’, the husband has spent a pleasurable morning with his wife. He argues that his wife has utilized the time in a better way by being in bed with his husband rather than doing activities of self-improvement like, reading, gardening, launching or listening to lecture on Schoenberg.
Richard Wilbur’s poetry is witty and imaginative. It also has elegant rhyme and beautiful metric patterning. Andrew Marvell’s poetry is intellectualized poetry. It is characterized by wit, irony and word play. It has bold and indigenous conceit, rhetoric excellence and mastery of formal structure (meter and rhyme) of poetry.
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