November 1, 1996

                   Marvell: How Noble in Reason
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     In "To His Coy Mistress," Andrew Marvell presents a speaker who appeals to his love
through persuasion. The speaker uses an appeal to reason as his main tool, but he also appeals to
his mistress through emotion and character to garner a response. Each stanza utilizes a different
method of appeal that relies on diction and punctuation.  In the first stanza, the speaker appeals to
character, in the second emotion, and in the third reason. By using different methods of appeal, the
speaker hopes to win his mistress' love.
     From the title, one can see that the speaker is a man addressing a female. However, to
understand the dramatic situation, one cannot examine the title alone but must scrutinize the entire
poem. In the first stanza, the speaker professes his love for his mistress by saying he would love her
from time's beginning to time's end (7-10). The speaker's "love should grow vaster than empires"
(11-12) and he would adore her for thousands of years (13-18). In the second stanza, the speaker
uses images associated with death, and in the third he offers a plan by which the two should live,
knowing that one does not live forever. With this information, one identifies the dramatic situation
as a man's attempt to woo a fickle lover into spending the rest of her life with him.  
     Identifying the speaker and the situation is not enough to analyze a poem rhetorically, so
one must look at the overall scheme in combination with an in-depth look.  The overall scheme of
this poem follows an appeal to reason, as proven by the first lines of each of the three stanzas.  The
poem begins with, "Had we but world enough and time," which sets up an argument in which the
speaker proposes what he would do if time permitted. The argument continues in the second stanza
with the first word, "But," which indicates a problem with the speaker's initial thoughts.  The
"But" begins a stanza in which the speaker introduces the universal truth that one does not live
forever. However, by starting the final stanza with, "Now therefore," the speaker gives a solution to
the problem he raised in the previous stanza. The method by which one introduces an idea, finds a
flaw in it, and then finds a solution to the problem follows a chain of logic and appeals to a
person's reason.
     Analyzing the poem further, one notices that the speaker's tone and persona changes from
stanza to stanza. This change in tone and persona alters the method by which the speaker appeals to
his mistress. In the first stanza, the speaker adopts a tone of praise and affection. He compliments
his mistress' beauty and soul by saying that she deserves thousands of years of praise for her body
and heart (13-20). He professes his adoration by telling her that his love spans from the beginning
of time,  "before the Flood" (8), to the end of time, "Till the conversion of the Jews" (10). 
Analyzing the speaker's tone allows one to discover the speaker's persona. In this stanza, the
speaker adopts an admiring and adoring persona. By praising his mistress' beauty and heart, the
speaker places her upon a pedestal and appeals to her character with flattery. 
     In the second stanza, the speaker adopts a darker and more realistic tone while still
admiring his love. He uses diction that conjures images of death, like "Time's winged chariot,"
"marble vault," "worms," "dust," "ashes," and "grave's."  These words serve to frighten the
mistress and to emphasize the point that one will inevitably die.  He tries to make the point that
only through death, which gets closer every second (21-22), will his love disappear (29) and that
only the worms will enjoy his mistress' (27) "company" when she dies. The unkown male wants
his mistress to realize that once they die, neither of them can experience love.  This darker tone
causes the speaker's persona to shift to a pessimistic and realistic persona.  However, so as not to
alienate his mistress, the speaker does not entirely abandon his admiring tone.  He still refers to her
beauty (24), virginity (28), and honor (29) to provide her with a sense of security, but he does not
flatter her to the degree he does in the first stanza. By changing his tone and persona, the speaker
changes his appeal. He appeals to his mistress' emotions by attempting to frighten her into
accepting his plea for love.
     In the final stanza, the speaker's tone changes again.  This time, the unknown male speaks
with a rushed tone, as though attempting to get in a final argument before time runs out, or death
catches him.  The main indication of this rushed tone lies in the punctuation. Marvell fills the first
stanza with commas and periods causing pauses and suggesting slow speech. The second stanza
does not contain as much punctuation as the first, but still has more punctuation than the third
stanza. The third stanza contains one semicolon, two commas, and two periods.  A reduced amount
of punctuation indicates rapid and rushed speech, and it appears that the speaker has realized that
he does not have time to make a long argument with his mistress because of Death's approach. 
Also, the third stanza contains words associated with action and motion, like "transpires," "fires,"
"sport," "devour," "power," "strength," and "run." The first two stanzas contain words associated
with thoughts and passivity.  The change from passive to active diction invokes thoughts of motion
or hurriedness.  With this final shift in tone, the speaker's persona changes to an out going and
"goal-getting" persona.  The speaker knows what he wants and knows that he does not have
eternity, so he wants his mistress to profess her love while she can.  To accomplish this goal, the
speaker appeals to his mistress' reason. Starting the stanza with "Now therefore" (33) begins his
appeal to reason. He uses the thoughts he introduced in the first two stanzas to rationalize his ideas
in the third stanza. The speaker wants to live with his mistress while they are still "youthful" (33-34) 
and passionate "like amorous birds of prey" (38). He wants the two of them to make the most of
their lives together (43-46) and refusal of his love does not make sense because their passion will
mean nothing in death, a logical reason. By loving each other, they may not stop time and live
forever as lovers, but they can make it seem that way by filling their lives with love and happiness. 
     In conclusion, Marvell's poem incorporates the three rhetorical appeals by creating a
situation where a man attempts to persuade his mistress into spending her life with him.  Overall,
the speaker appeals to reason, but upon closer inspection, the type of appeal changes whenever the
tone and persona of the speaker changes.