Alliteration in "To His Coy Mistress"
The speaker uses alliteration to
make his words more alluring when wooing his lover, but
he dispenses with it when contemplating the reality of
death in order to make his words even more chilling.
- lines 1-4 - "Had we but world enough...pass
our long loves day"
There is a striking amount of alliteration throughout
the poem, especially throughout the first section. Each
of the first four lines contains alliteration: We/world
(1), coyness/crime (2), we
would/which way (3), long/loves
(4). This alliteration adds to the speakers playfulness
and the poems beauty in the sections in which he
is trying to woo his lover; it appropriately disappears
in the gloomy middle section, when the speaker contemplates
- lines 16 and 18 - "But thirty thousand...last
age should show"
As at its beginning, the end of the poems first
section contains a lot of alliteration. Thirty thousand
(16) and should show (18) are emphatic and
unusual sounds, repeated for emphasis and, as above, for
playfulness. The speaker is showing off to his lover here,
trying to hold her attention just before his argument
shifts into its next phase.
- lines 45-46 - "Thus, though we cannot make our
sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run."
Leaving aside the repeated m sound of make,
there are three examples of alliteration in the final
two lines. Having abandoned the device of alliteration
during the middle section of the poem, the speaker returns
to it here and ends with a flourish. Thus
and though (which also alliterate with Thorough
in line 44), sun/Stand still,
and we will are a dazzling flourish of alliteration
that conclude the poem and are meant to impress the listener.
Also, because the tempo of the final section is faster
at the end of the poem than it is at the beginning, it
makes sense that devices such as alliteration become even
more compressed. The effect is like the grand finale at
a fireworks display.