Youth comes around once in a lifetime and it’s not something you can save for later. “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick portray the underlying theme of carpe diem or “seize the day,” enjoying life to the fullest. Both of these poems mainly try to pursue women who have grand beauty to realize the advantage of their good looks when young, before time takes a toll on their beauty.
Both poets use their words to convince someone to act, in this case to savor youth, virginity and beauty; they are trying to convince young virgins to live life to the fullest potential. Marvell and Herrick poems share the same theme and central belief but have different audience and use different ways to express their ideas. Both poems use carpe diem as their major theme. Herrick’s poem portrays carpe diem by citing the shortness of life and persuading young women to marry and enjoy life taking advantage before death takes its turn.
He says “gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying”, which shows that the virgins in this case referred to as rosebuds are just beginning to live and don’t have any experience yet, but time flies and one ages fast by so it’s better to enjoy the good years while there is time (Herrick 1-2). Carpe diem is used from the beginning In Marvell’s poem, “Had we but world enough, and time this coyness, lady, were no crime” saying that even though he wants all the time in the world to spend with her, there isn’t enough so she is committing a crime by making him wait for her virginity (Marvell 1-2).
By stating to live life to its fullest potential he wants to persuade his mistress to a sexual relationship. “To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time” uses the meaning of carpe diem by encouraging young women to make use of their time by finding love while young and getting married before they get old and lose their beauty. Marvell and Herrick encourage young women to seize the day and don’t pass up chances since opportunities are hard to find. Marvell and Herrick’s poems share a central belief that young virgins should not wait to have sex because nobody knows what the future holds.
Both poets want to idealize that tomorrow may never come, so it’s better to do it now and not wait because of coyness. They use death and getting old as the excuse to not lose time and make use of virginity when young. Marvell tries to lure a woman into sleeping with him by using time as a defense to experience pleasure now, he tells her that time is running out and “Now let us sports us while we may, and now, like amorous birds of prey” making use of their strength and youth to consummate their love (Marvell 37-38). He tries to convince the mistress that it is better to have sex now than to save her virginity for the future.
Herrick recommends to all virgins to make use of the youth and to find love and enjoy life’s pleasures because old age is near. He emphasizes to not waste time as he feels women are their best at their prime, when they are young and untainted saying “then be no coy, but use your time, and, while ye may, go marry”(Herrick 13-14). The idea in both poems is to take advantage of being young and beautiful because times flies and people get old sooner than later. Marvell and Herrick dedicate the poems to a different audience. Marvell is writing specially to his mistress trying to woo her with promises of everlasting love.
Herrick however, dedicates his poem to young virgins and wants to give them the idea of marriage while love and flesh is young to not have to suffer in the later years of life and not be lonely. In the beginning of To His Coy Mistress”, Marvell praises his woman writing how her modesty wouldn’t affect them if time was not an issue, but it is. He states she is a virgin because she is coy and later begins to diminish her ideals and beauty with aging and death saying “then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity, and your quaint honor turn to dust,” to state there is no reason for her to keep her virginity till the grave (Marvell 27-29) .
Everything in Marvell’s poem is about his wishes to enjoy sexual pleasure with this woman and does everything in his power to scare her of dying without having sex first. Herrick’s poem is about the urgency and duty for the virgins to go forth and marry while young and beautiful before everything is loss with time and old age, warning them of the sufferings that come if they fail to listen to his advice. Marvell and Herrick use different ways to express their ideas on the poems.
In “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time,” Herrick uses a rather short poem to make his point short and simple versus the long and descriptive “To His Coy Mistress” by Marvell. Herrick focuses in an optimistic look to take advantage of youth and has basic and warmth imagery to state that beauty fades over the years and the effects of wasting time. On the other hand, Marvell’s poem is more detailed, beautiful and at the same time dark to suggest the mistress she shouldn’t waste her youth and virginity while she is at the prime of her life.
He uses ugly and realistic ideas to snap the mistress out the notion of eternal love to finally lure her to make love with him and make time the last thing on their minds. Marvell is more in-depth and emotional while Herrick is calm and regretful. Both poems compare to each other by using the underlying theme of carpe diem, making the most of each moment before old age and beauty disappears. Marvell is very emotional and persuasive while Herrick is less personal giving useful advice to young people. To His Coy Mistress” is an expression of Marvell ‘s most deeply rooted impulses, how he feels about the ideas the lady has about losing her virginity, and the fact he wants to spend time loving her and adoring her in bed. “To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time” is a poem about the wishes of Herrick for the youth to realize that now it’s their time and to not waste any amount because of coyness, addressing his thoughts to the young generation to have a fulfilled life, to not be shy of trying new things as those who are not afraid are the ones who will enjoy the most.
Works Cited Marvell, Andrew. “To his coy mistress. ” The Seagull Reader Poems. Ed. Joseph Kelley. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2008. 220-222. Print. Herrick, Robert. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time. ” The Seagull Reader Poems. Ed. Joseph Kelley. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2008. 159-160. Print.
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