Poem Analysis: To His Importunate Mistress and To His Coy Mistress

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Peter de Vries wrote the poem “To His Importunate Mistress” in 1681. It’s essentially a parody of Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress.” To convey his message, the author employs a range of styles such as hyperbole, sarcasm, and diction. This poem reflects on myths such as valuing wealth above all else, the lack of true love, and shamelessness, all of which are created thoroughly by sarcasm. His approach to poem composition has resulted in his work being ranked among the greatest of the twentieth century. This paper seeks to demonstrate his stylistic approach and deals with the various themes that together create the impression of self-centeredness and brashness of character that differs in style as compared to Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress,” where the opposite is true.

From an ordinary view, this poem ‘s plot seems to simply tell the story of a man protesting the unending needs of his mistress. This poem is told from a first person’s point of view although allowing us to connect intimately with the speaker, also gives us limited, biased, and to an extent, an introspective view of the speaker. For instance the writer “Had we…” (1) and “…back I always hear” (3). This utilization of ‘I’ and ‘We’ indicates an emphasis to the fact that the speaker is not alone, he is with someone else. This, in essence, reveals to the reader an awareness that is helpful in understanding the rest of the poem. This style in this poem compares remarkably with “We” appearing in line one and three. This gives us an idea of what similarity de Vries wanted his work to compare with Marvels.

The two poems use the word ‘Mistress’ to refer to the lovers of the speakers. This helps us to read into the attitude of people towards romantic relations in relation to the main message in the poems. The overriding theme that comes that of is infidelity. A mistress in today’s contemporary world is a woman who is in a relationship with a married man. The speaker in this poem is keen to share that there was no sincerity in as far as the marriage covenant was concerned. This is fully developed in the manner in which the speaker in “To His Importunate Mistress” talks that strongly suggests that he is a married man with another family. De Vries writes, “Since mistress presupposes wife, It means a doubly costly life,” (17-18). Shamelessly this man engages in an illicit relationship that is outside the correct scope of marriage. The question is; are people who cheat in marriage happy? The answers found in the two poems reveal a contrast which is in itself ironical and strange and leaves one to wonder if there is a need for such.

The speaker in de Vries poem thinks that his mistress is “importunate” which means very demanding, and this connects with the author’s desire to tell us on infidelity that was there during his time. By a carefully crafted dilemma that makes the speaker want to get away from his mistress because she is an expensive problem – “The hour is nigh when creditors will prove to be my predators” (5-6) – we deduce that he is not getting away from the relationship because it is wrong, but rather he is unable to support the same. To show fear of debts, De Vries makes use of the metaphor “times winged chariot”(4) which in Marvell’s poem symbolizes death. This simply means that death comes before love, a show of self-centeredness and lack of genuine love. This sharply differs with the other ‘Mistress’ in Marvell’s poem.

She is showered with praise and seduced passionately. Although the speaker seems not to succeed in wooing her, his words that praise and his declaration of love is a sure indicator of what is truly lacking in society today. The use of poetic diction like “This coyness, Lady…” (4)and “our long love’s day,”(4) tells us the style of the author is shaped by the idea that although we can desire something and give it our all, still it can remain elusive, “Thus, though we cannot make our sun.” The dilemma in these two poems posed by the relationships by the two speakers is brought out through contempt among the authors.

Mockery highlights the way De Vries begins his work. He, for instance, copies everything that Marvel says in the first line. “Had we but world enough and time…” (De Vries, Line 1) While Marvel’s poem is keen about a sexual relationship “Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,” (Marvel, 37-38) in De Vries poem, the speaker is heaping praise on his mistress. By taking lines from Marvell’s work and twisting them to create his story, De Vries brings out satire with the intention remaining to mock. For instance, when he points out that he does not have as much money as he would have liked to entertain his mistress as much as Marvell had time to ‘sex-up’ his mistress, the sarcasm is self-explanatory. This reinforces the reality about the value of marriage as a loving relationship in the eyes of Marvell versus it being just a pay-and-go casual activity. This leads to an extreme utilization of words to express meaning.

Hyperbole is greatly used in this poem. Almost every word is exaggerated in the poem. He promises to cater for all her needs and ensure she gets only the best, “Bag lunches bolted at my desk.” (De Vries 8). In line 10-11, “For each expensive rendezvous, Obeisance at your marble feet.” Through his money- purchased love, the persona in Devries poem believes that his mistress will have to find a way of compensating his love. This suggests that the speaker would be very demanding once he successfully gets the lady in question as his mistress. The fact that money can be used to buy love that does not last is illuminated and in a way explains what it means to have that which you can never truly have. This poem answers that love, like everything else, is not perfect, it has its up’s and downs. These exaggerations are revealed to us dramatically.

Monolog, where the speaker is the only one talking makes our poem a speech by only one character. However, the poet is not talking alone or rather to himself makes it dramatic. This makes this poem a dramatic monolog. The markers of monolog used in this poem are mainly the use of first person pronouns “I” (De Vries line 1, 25)and “We”(De Vries, 3). The speaker is ever talking about himself or someone else but is the one doing the talking. Another marker that is more subtle is the lack of personal information regarding the speaker or his mistress. Reading this poem only reveals the message and nothing on the person. The main effect of this is that the speaker makes us the readers feel that we are hearing more of a private conversation than we should do. This is also prevalent in the “To His Coy Mistress.” The same occurs for instance in lines three and twenty-one. The overall effect of this style is the closeness with which we are able to interact with the speaker. The way the poem is organized helps further build the author’s intention.

On reading this poem, the meter used is clearly iambic tetrameter. This is clear in the sense that in each pair of syllables out of the four in each line, one syllable is stressed while the other is not. For example:

“Had we but world enough, and ti/me, (stressed) My coyness, lady, were a cri/me,”(unstressed)

This gives this poem a unique sound that maintains the voice of the speaker. This is further enhanced by the total number of lines in the poem – thirty-four lines or sixteen pairs of lines. These pairs of lines (couplets) with their unique stress patterns rhyme with each other as well.

“Had we but world enough, and time, My coyness, lady, were a crime,”

This same structure is seen in the Marvel’s poem. There is iambic tetrameter, and the poem has forty-six lines that can be further segregated into twenty-four couplets.

“Had we but world enough, and time, (unstressed) This coyness, Lady, were no crime “(stressed)

In this original poem as well the couplets rhyme, a good example occurs in lines thirteen and fourteen.

An hundred years should go to praise (Marvell, 13)Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; (Marvell, 14)

This similarity in structure confirms the work of Peter de Vries as a parody work of Andrew Marvel poem. Nonetheless, the musically derived from using tetrameter, couplets, and rhyme is that the sentences flow smoothly and steadily. This makes the poems nice to read.

In conclusion, the style used by DeVries can be said to be one that relies upon hyperbole, monolog, sarcasm, diction, sentence structure, rhyme, point of view and dilemma. The effect of this stylistic use is the creation of a deep contrast of values regarding romance in Marvell’s earlier past and De Vries later past. It also helps us to appreciate that change is inevitable and that the reality of yesterday may not really matter today. This conflict is marked by a contradictory state in which the both the genuine and materialistic lovers do not find the ultimate love but only end up with sorrows and regrets. This is the truth about us, the reality that what we care for most is not necessarily what we get.

Work Cited

Scholes, Robert. Elements Of Literature – Fiction, Poetry, Drama. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2015,.

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