Irony in "To His Coy Mistress"
The poems entire first section
(lines 1-20) is ironic in the sense that the speaker knows
that he isnt being sincere. His tone and rhetoric
shift in the second and third sections, but the ironic
tone has been set in the first: This speaker uses words
to his advantage, and we can take little of what he says
at face value.
- line 1 - "Had"
The first section of the poem is a calculated series of
hyperbolic statements that are meant to impress and flatter
the listener, and the first word, Had, sets
this section in the realm of the subjunctive tense. Essentially,
the speaker is saying, If we were to live forever,
I could spend a great deal of time seducing you.
Of course, they won't live forever, and the speaker knows
that before he even begins his flattery.
- line 19 - "you deserve this state"
Part of the speakers irony here is his knowledge
that, although the lady might deserve this state
of leisurely seduction, because she is mortal she cannot
have it. All of his grandiose pronouncements throughout
this section are put in perspective by the knowledge that
they are all based on fantasy.