Comparison of Robert Herrick's poem To the Virgins to Make Much of Time and Andrew Marvell's poem To His Coy Mistress

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:Poetry

Document 1

It translates to “seize the day” and basically means living in the now and taking advantage of opportunities as they come. The phrase acknowledges how fast time moves and encourages people to take advantage of their youth before time catches up with them and they die. As Joseph J. Moldenhauer offers his own explanation: ” The carpe diem poem, whose label comes from a line of Horace and whose archetype for Renaissance poets was a lyric by Catullus, addresses the conflict of beauty and sensual desire on the one hand and the de- structive force of time on the other” (Moldenhauer 190) The two poems follow the same pattern and when reading them you can feel the urgency to take action while there is still time.

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The two poems have many similarities such as their acknowledgement of how short time is and their words to take advantage of time while you are still young and alive but they also have significant differences. The speakers in both poems is another interesting point of comparison. Although both the speaker in Marvell’s poem and Herrick’s poem are talking to a young woman, they both have different motives as to why they have brought up the issue of time. The speaker in Marvell’s poem is straightforward in his request for sex with the lady in the poem. He tries to convince her that they should do it when they are still young lest time catches up with them and they die.

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He ridicules that the worms will take her virginity if she does not let him take it now when they are young. On the other hand also says who the poem is addressed to, the speaker’s mistress. The title of each poem describes to the reader what to expect in the poem. They are straightforward and speak to the purpose of the poem. The issue of morality was very significant in the 17th century. Going against society’s moral standards had dire consequences with sexual offences like fornication and adultery attracting capital punishment: “adulterers could face life imprisonment or exile. Herrick on the other hand uses cycles to show the inevitability of time. He says the flower smiling today will be dead the next day and the sun that is bright will set.

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These are used to represent the ending of time for the virgins. The tone of the speaker in Marvell’s poem seems eager and anxious. He gives the lady the idea that they have no time and they should have sex right away. Have a lot of things in common considering they are both 17th century “Carpe diem” poems. Their idea and use of time and mortality is similar. They also use the same argument of dying too young to convince their different audiences to take action. Marvell’s poem however is meant for a single individual and tries to convince her to have sex the speaker. The speaker uses decorative language and hyperbole to show the lady how serious the matter of dying a virgin would be.

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Gale, 2013.  Literature Resource Center, link. galegroup. com/apps/doc/H1420115585/LitRC?u=hunt25841&sid=LitRC&xid=f333bcf2. Accessed 6 Dec. Herrick, Robert. To the virgins, to make much of time.  Arthur QuillerCouch, ed (1919). Marvell, Andrew, and Peter Hühn.  To his coy mistress.

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