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Tone in To His Coy Mistress

Tone Examples in To His Coy Mistress:

Text of the Poem

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"Now let us..."   (Text of the Poem)

In the final stanza, the pronouns shift from primarily first-person singular to first-person plural. This symbolizes the metaphorical as well as the longed-for, literal union of the speaker and his lady: they become an “us” rather than two distinct individuals. The speaker shifts his tone away from the gloominess of the second stanza to focus on empowering himself and his lady to live their lives to the fullest as partners in the battle against time.

"like amorous birds of prey..."   (Text of the Poem)

The third stanza focuses on taking action, and this simile, which compares the lovers to birds of prey, creates a more violent feeling in the poem, turning love into a battle against time. The speaker urges his lady to join him in “devouring” time through shared pleasure, shifting the tone away from the gloominess of the second stanza and instead becoming more determined as the couple prepares to do battle.

"But..."   (Text of the Poem)

The “but” at the beginning of the second stanza implies that the romantic suggestions put forward in the first stanza are unrealistic. The second stanza moves into an argument for why drawn-out courtships are not practical because time is catching up to the speaker and his mistress with every passing moment. This captures the thematic concept of time as an enemy seeking to steal away their ability to court slowly. The transition away from the grand romantic posturing of the first stanza also shifts the tone, with the speaker becoming less adoring and more urgent in his arguments.

"The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace...."   (Text of the Poem)

The speaker employs dark humor to lighten the mood set out by the previous lines’ death imagery. His goal is to convince his lady to consummate their love, but the previous lines contain gloomy images that do little to inspire romance. This couplet shifts the tone away from the dreariness of death, employing some gallows humor to refocus his argument in favor of consummating their love while they are still alive.

"We would sit down and think which way To walk and pass our long love’s day...."   (Text of the Poem)

The poem is made up of rhyming couplets. The opening four lines are made up of two “closed” couplets, or couplets that each represent full sentences. This beginning adds a sense of measured urgency to the poem as the statements are succinct rather than extended or open.

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