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”To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and ”The Unequal Fetters” by Anne Finch

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1975
  • Category: Poems

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‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell and ‘The Unequal Fetters’, by Anne Finch both share the theme of love. The poems differ in many ways; they both have very different meanings. ‘The Unequal Fetters’ was written from the point of view of a woman whereas ‘To His Coy Mistress’ was by the point of view of a man. They were written in different time periods ‘The Unequal Fetters’ was written in the mid to late seventeenth century early eighteenth, and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ was written in the mid seventeenth century. ‘The Unequal Fetters’ concentrates on the tie of women in marriage, and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ relates to seductive love.

‘To His Coy Mistress’ is a poem addressed to a young woman from a young man lover. First of all the poem explores how to seduce his lover through extreme exaggerations. Marvell then goes on with slightly more seriousness and considers the idea that a drawn out courtship may possibly be overtaken by death, and perhaps happiness and joy being wiped out forever. Finally the poet concluded that their relationship is so strong and if they fulfil his passion they can defeat the passage of time.

Andrew Marvell uses vivid images all to make the argument more convincing. In the first Stanza he uses romantic persuasion to try to woo his beloved by explaining that if they had all the time in the world he would wait for her, for instance ‘ we could sit down, and think which way to walk and pass our long love’s day.’ This shows that he is trying to coerce her; he would play at the waiting games. He is also exaggerating the timescale in a way that he starts with ‘Love you ten years before the flood’ which shows his true love for her and would wait an eternity as he goes on to say ‘An hundred years should go to praise thine eyes’.

The poet then changes his mind in the second Stanza and writes in a darker mood. He refuses to play the waiting game as it’s not a possibility and he is very aware that the time is passing and the relationship is not going where he wants it to. So, he then begins to threaten her. The second stanza is ended with sarcasm and irony, “The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace.” Marvell is saying that there is no life after death it is dry nothingness. He is saying this so sarcastically that it is unpleasant; it is patronising and you can see the way he really feels about his mistress – that she is being stupid to deny him her virginity. This stanza has taken a real turn compared to the first, and here, instead of using his love for her as reasoning for her to sleep with him, he uses time’s passing, and threats.

He tells her that time is rushing by, and that she will die a virgin, threatening her with ugly images of her dead and what it will be like in her coffin as a virgin. This is his method of persuasion in this stanza – that if she doesn’t sleep with him she will die a virgin. Death has a strong influence on the second stanza and is to be feared because everyone is scared of dying. There is also the idea of growing old and being lonely; something that scares everyone as no one wants to be lonely. Another image he portrays is that a lowly worm will take away her virginity when she is dead rather than him; this is a very shocking and disturbing image for her as he tries to make her feel uneasy. Marvell uses the word “quaint” in this stanza, which suggests that he is patronizing the lady and proves he is playing on her fears, as he has little respect for her; he talks down to her. He tries to scare her into bed. This is all because it is written as a counter argument.

The third stanza of “To His Coy Mistress” is an evaluation of the two previous stanzas. It is a reminder that time is passing quickly, but does not have the same cruelness that the second stanza holds. The stanza opens with the line “Now therefore, while youthful hue sits on thy skin like morning dew”. This is a piece of imagery that makes her youth seem like a possession – something that isn’t part of her, just an object that she’s allowed to possess until it wears out. This is an interesting way of viewing youth, and is designed to scare his mistress into realising that she won’t hold her youth forever, and should make the best of it while she possesses it.

This is aesthetically written it appeals to your senses which will either give you a sense of pleasure or displeasure. In this case it relates to the touch sense which gives an impression of the innocence of youth. The last stanza of To His Coy Mistress, starts with the words “now therefore” suggesting an alternative to the horror of the last nightmarish images. Marvell here tries to conclude his thoughts and offer an alternative to the previous ideas. He asks her to sleep with him before time runs out and compares himself to “strength” and her to “sweetness.” His tone varies in this stanza from flattery and fear. He feels that now is the time to do it while they an item and young he says “And now, like amorous birds of prey,” this means he wants to eat her up greedily like love birds. He doesn’t see the point in having the power and not using it. He wants to use the passion and energy. He refers to “iron gates” which gives the image of being locked out meaning that once you are dead there is no going back.

“To His Coy Mistress” is written in enjambment; this is when the end of the line is not punctuated but flows into the next examples of this are lines 3, 5, 6,7,21 etc. He uses enjambments because it helps to sub stain the argument because it is continuous. He also uses rhyming couplets for the pace and rhythm, this is done for built momentum- it builds the drive of the argument. He also uses definite rhyming couplets effectively to convey his inner feelings: “My vegetable love should grow it Vaster that empires and more slow”. This shows his love is expanding slowly and innocently over time for his ‘mistress’. He uses irregular sentence lengths to create a slower pace of time. Marvell tries to create more time. The poet uses strong stressed words to make them more powerful e.g.: “Deserts of vast eternity.” This personifies his feeling we see how emotion can grow naturally into something that is immense and powerful. Marvell also expresses the admiration of time running out when he illustrates “Time…hurrying near”. It increases the feeling of anxiety because time is coming closer. In Marvel’s poem the sentences are very short in length and disjointed through the use of lots of punctuation. As a consequence, the poem seems very broken up and sharp which makes the reader read the poem at a much faster pace. In some ways this speed makes it more excitable which adds to the more lusty aspect of the poem.

The mood is at first reckless and jokey it then moves on to being more reflective, serious and considering death. The poem closes with an attitude which is persuasive, pleading, discriminating and eventually triumphant. The first stanza has a fairly regular rhythm but is duller. The more regular, dynamic rhythm of the closing stanza gives us a sense of the poet’s energetic state of mind. The last line is arresting in that it contains less syllables than those above it. There is an overall regular rhyme scheme of aabbccdd… apart from the half rhymes in the second stanza. The words ‘Eternity’ and ‘Virginity’ only half-rhyme. The effect of this is to link together in our mind these two ideas.

The following words have an impact; He says ‘And your quaint honour turn to dust, and into ashes all my lust’, he is recalling the funeral ceremony ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’. He does not assault these virtues, he says that whatever they mean to her now, they will mean nothing when she is forgotten.

In “To His Coy Mistress” he uses alliteration; ‘long love’s’ and ‘private place’. He also uses assonance; ‘youthful hue’.

Unlike “To His Coy Mistress”,” The Unequal Fetters” differs enormously. “To His Coy Mistress” is a persuasive poem written to a female lover, whereas “The Unequal Fetters” is written as a warning to women. This poem gives a women’s view of love and marriage. Her views are completely different to the ones of “To His Coy Mistress” in the way that she believes that the fetters between men and women are unequal. Anne Finch has written her poem in four clear verses rather than 3 stanzas. Although both poems start off in the same attitude of romance.

In the first verse Anne Finch uses the image of the possibility of time standing still, she says “Could we stop the time that’s flying. Or recall it when ’tis past,” this means that if time stood still then it would be worth loving. This is the nearly the same image conveyed in the first stanza in “To His Coy Mistress” about playing the waiting game and if time went on forever, but both poets know that time is quickly disappearing. Then Finch changes her attitude and goes on to say, ” But since we must lose those graces, which at first your hearts have won” what she is trying to say here is that the person has changed since you won their heart and true love, the attraction that was there in the first place has now disappeared.

Even though he has now changed her attitude in the poem it is not as sickening as the attitude in the second stanza of “To His Coy Mistress”. The third verse makes it clear about her feelings of the inequality and shows her anger towards men by writing, “Free as Nature’s first intention was to make us, I’ll be found, Nor by subtle Man’s invention Yield to be in fetters bound”. This means that when a female is born she is born free but then because of men fooling you into there sincere love and into marriage, women are trapped by men. The final verse of “The Unequal Fetters” she concludes that “Marriage does but slightly tie men Whilst close prisoners we remain”. She means that women are chained by marriage while men are free and can stretch “At the full length of all their chain.” “The Unequal Fetters” refers to the unequal lengths of chain men and women have.

Her poem shows how wrongly men treat women just as in “To His Coy Mistress”. Anne Finch writes her poem in a frank manner whereas Andrew Marvell writes in a sick, perverted and threatening manner. The writer of “To His Coy Mistress” seems to be quite a selfish writer on the other hand the writer of “The Unequal Fetters” writes an honest version of her own true feelings.

“The Unequal Fetters” is written in caesura with every other line rhyming which contrasts to “To His Coy Mistress” which is written in enjambment.

Even though “The Unequal Fetters” is quite a short poem it has a very powerful message.

Both poems have their differences along with their similarities which makes them a perfect comparison, each with their own views.

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