Tone in "To His Coy Mistress"
To His Coy Mistress
is a carpe diem (or seize the day) poem in
which the speaker tries to convince the listener to go
to bed with him. As such, we might expect the tone to
be ribald, lusty, or perhaps insincere, as the speaker
will presumably say anything to argue his case. Yet the
lighthearted tone of the poem suffers from the introduction
of the concept of death in the midsection, and the overall
tone is more melancholy than it would have been otherwise.
- line 15 - "Two hundred to adore each breast"
As throughout the entire first section of the poem, here
the speaker sounds as though he might be wearing a sly
smile. He is flattering his lover to the point of exaggeration,
and he is careful to point out that he would spend twice
as much time adoring her breasts than he would spend on
her eyes and forehead. The tone in this section is thus
insincere and ribald.
- lines 27, 29, and 30 - "worms, dust,
These words alter the tone introduced in first section
of the poem through imagery associated with decomposition.
These words firmly establish the chilling reality of death.
The tone here is sincere and melancholic, and its effect
on the overall tone is enduring.
- lines 36, 39, and 43 - "fires, devour,
The tone in this final section, fueled by the increasing
tempo and the naturalistic imagery, is positively lusty.
These words emphasize the tone, but they have clearly
been affected by the midsections melancholy tone.
It is less likely that the speaker is wearing a sly smile
in this final section; if he is smiling at all, he is
likely gritting his teeth.