Image in "To His Coy Mistress"
The speaker in Marvells poem
carefully controls his imagery to enhance his argument.
There is a discernible progression from exotic and luxurious
imagery in the first section to lifelessness in the second
and to fiery passion in the third. The power of the imagery
in the final stanza gains force because of the progression
of imagery throughout the poem.
- lines 6 and 12 - "rubies and empires"
In the first section of the poem, the speaker creates
exotic imagery, presumably to tantalize his listener.
He has her imagination wandering to rivers both near (the
Humber) and far (the Ganges), and his evocation of rubies
and empires suggests exotic and fantastic realms removed
from and more appealing than any domestic scene in England.
- line 16 - "thirty thousand"
The speaker progresses from comprehensible amounts of
time to incomprehensible amounts, culminating by asking
her to imagine thirty thousand years. The effect of this
imagery is to bring her (and us) outside of the immediate
moment and into ancient history and beyond.
- line 24 - "Deserts of vast eternity"
While our minds are presumably lost in the reverie of
contemplating thirty thousand years in the preceding section,
the speaker abruptly changes imagery and brings his mistress
(and us) to the grave. The deserts of vast eternity
could have been the age the speaker would devote to worshiping
his listeners every part (17). Instead,
neither the speakers lust nor his listener's beauty
will endure through eternity. The poem has progressed
from ten years before the flood into eternity, but the
lifelessness of the second section is in stark contrast
with the rich luxury of the first.
- lines 27, 29, and 30 - "worms, dust,
To make the lifelessness of the preceding lines even more
distasteful, the speaker introduces repugnant images associated
with the decomposition of bodies in graves. The effect
is to make the listener fully appreciate the important
differences between beautiful life and disgusting death.
- lines 36, 38, and 39 - "instant fires,
birds of prey, and devour"
Once he has set up the contrast between the eternity of
his love and human mortality in the first two sections,
the speaker uses images of fiery passion in this final
section. Gone are the ethereal, tantalizing images of
the first section; here he is arguing with a kind of passionate
intensity meant to awaken his lovers hot-blooded
desire, not to garner her mild agreement.