VirtuaLit Interactive Poetry TutorialNotebook VIEW SEND

Simile in "To His Coy Mistress"

There are two similes in the poem, and the most striking thing about them is that they both occur in the final section, in rapid succession. This is the speaker’s most desperate hour, and he is trying to introduce his ideas in quick bursts that are full of imagery in order to make them easily understood. At the same time, he uses the second simile to introduce an aggressive, passionate image that had been buried until this point.

- lines 33-34 - "the youthful hue / Sits on the skin like morning dew"
This simile is meant to make the situation crystal clear to the listener; it almost encapsulates the speaker’s argument. The simile is a fairly standard comparison of the listener to nature: The morning dew, like the speaker’s youth, is ephemeral.

- line 38 - "like amorous birds of prey"
This simile reveals the speaker’s desperation and his rising passion, or barely contained lust. “Birds of prey” are generally not considered “amorous,” just the opposite. Here the speaker is trying to introduce a bold, aggressive image into the mind of his mistress in order to stir her passions.

Questions for response

1). How does this examination of similes change your understanding of how the poem works as a whole?

2). Why do you think there are more metaphors than similes in the poem?

Bedford/St. Martin's | Order a Book | Instructor Registration | Contact Us | Contact Your Sales Representative