I have studied two poems that are about love and seduction – ‘To my Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell and ‘the seduction’ by Eileen McCauley. I will look at each of these to see how each one portrays love and seduction and how the authors use different style and language to show this portrayal.
I will first study ‘To my Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell. The first the thing you notice about this poem is the title of the poem. This title suggests how the man writing the poem is trying to get a successful seduction from his girlfriend. The word Andrew Marvell uses there is coy and this means to be shy or withdrawn and this suggests to me that it could be a poem of seduction and charm if his mistress is coy. The first lines of the poem say to his mistress ‘had we but world enough, and time. This coyness lady were no crime.’ He says to her that if they had enough time then they could do whatever they wanted and the shyness of his mistress would be nothing wrong.
I think he does this because he does not want to get angry and he wants to please her. I think he also tries to impress in the next line with tales of exotic places. He says ‘to walk, and pass our loves long day, thou by the Indian Ganges side’ I think he is trying to charm her by saying that if he had all the time, he would take her to India, which would be very exotic and rare when this poem was written. I think him comparing this beautiful place to the dingy Humber River, shows us what the difference would be if they were not together because he says he would complain if she were not by his side. I also think he is trying to portray how far he would take her to love her.
The next thing he uses to charm his mistress is to say ‘I would love you ten years before he flood…to the conversion of the Jews.’ He is saying to her that if he had all the time in the world then he would love her from the start of time to the end because the Jews will ultimately all convert to Christianity. Andrew Marvell here ponders about the various views of time and what he would do if he had endless time to use. He says that his ‘Vegetable love should grow vaster than empires, and more slow.’ This shows how much his love is and how long it would go on for if it had to time to do so. He then goes on to say how long he would take to praise each part of her beautiful body but if he had ages to do so. He also cheekily comments that he would spend ‘two hundred to adore each breast but thirty thousand to the rest’ This is teasing his lady and showing her how much he adores and worships each and every detail of her body. At the end of this verse he backs up his charm and vigour by saying ‘ for lady you deserve this state; nor would I love at lower rate.’ He is saying, because if I could spend this time on you I would, because I love you and you deserve this praise.
In the second verse however, Marvell uses the true meaning of time to illustrate to his mistress that they have limited time left to enjoy their life, and he also almost tries to frighten her into making love to him. He first says ‘but at my back I always hear times winged chariot hurrying near: and yonder all before us lye Desarts of vast eternity’ What he is trying to say is that they don’t have until the end of time to love each other and they have ‘Desarts of vast eternity’ lying in front of them, in other words the Desarts of vast eternity are what would be never ending time but which is not actually there. I think from here in he tries to scare her by saying how her beauty will not stay forever and how you should use it well while she can because everyone has to grow old and die in the end. The quote that told me this was ‘ thy beauty shall no more be found nor in thy marble vault, shall sound my echoing song.’ I think this echoing song is his love for her in a song but if she dies, this love could die forever too without doing something about physically showing their love for each other.
Another thing, which he tries to frighten her with, is ‘ then worms shall try that long preserved virginity: and your quaint honour turn to dust.’ The disgusting thought of worms eating away at her virginity is horrible, but also true that if she tries to be so reserved, then it will work horribly against her when she dies, and her honour will go with this. He also says with this ‘and into ashes all my lust’ So here he is showing how he can not love her or make love to her once she has died, so why don’t they show their love for each other while they can. I also think he is saying that if she loses her virginity to worms, then she will not enjoy it, but if they make love, then they will enjoy it much more and there will be more honour to it.
After this point in the poem, I think Marvell is showing that he makes a more concertive effort to gain the lady’s love physically and also he shows them as one pair rather than two separate people, and therefore they are together. The first line is
‘ Now therefore, while the youthful hew sits on thy skin like morning dew’ and I think this is showing the woman as personification of the dew, which is young and pure and beautiful in its way. He is also showing again how they are at the prime of their life and is at the best time to get together. I think at the word ‘now’, it signals a change in mood for the poem, as he is trying to tie up a physical relationship with her from then onwards in the poem. He has showed his love for her, and then showed the advantages of losing her virginity here and now he is trying to finally convince her that it’s the right thing to do.
The language that Andrew Marvell uses shows the type of seduction that is quite charming and intrusive, but in a subtle way. One example of how Marvell uses language to portray a more subtle seduction is when he says ‘but at my back I always hear times winged chariot hurrying near and yonder all before us lye desarts of vast eternity’ This is a good imagery because you see the amount of time that they are losing without sex as the desarts of vast eternity. The idea of time that Marvell uses I think is portraying several things. One of these is that he and his lady cannot change time for their own needs and they cannot change time to love each other, so why don’t they as he says’ roll up all our strength and sweetness up into one ball’ and make love. I think the imagery of the sweetness rolling up into one ball coincides with the line
‘ And tear our pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of time. I think Marvell is trying to say with these lines that even though they cannot change time, if they make love they can make time seem to fly and they can enjoy themselves.
The first thing I noticed about ‘the seduction’ by Eileen McAuley is that the language used is very much less subtle than In ‘To my coy mistress.’ I think this is because it is the story of modern day teenager and the language reflects the coarseness and less love of the poem. I think this poem tries to portray some of the different ways in which sex is used. In ‘To my coy mistress’ there is a relationship between two people, and although he is looking for sex from her there appears to be love between them, as he expresses to her. In ‘the seduction’ however, I think there is a more coarse way in which the two people have sex. I think something that shows us that there is no relationship is the difference in their conversation topics. The boy talk about ‘the milk cup and the next McGuigan fight’, about sports in a boyish way whereas she talks about her ‘O levels she’d be sitting in June she chattered on, and stared at the water’ The difference between this is that neither of them actually are there for love or relationship, but for intercourse and the lack of connection between them shows us this.
This lack of relationship is also demonstrated because the boy is feeding her drink and we can tell this gets her drunk and lures her into sex from this ‘as he brought her more drinks, so she fell in love with his eyes as blue as iodine with the fingers that stroked her neck and thighs and kisses that tasted of nicotine’. We can see that her sex is chemically but not with any meaning. I think the author cleverly portrays to us that many people mistake sex for love and believe they are fallen in love when really they are being lied to or drunk. The line that shows this to me ‘he handed her the vodka, and she knocked it back like water, she giggled, drunk and nervous, and he muttered little slag.’
One more thing I can see from this poem seduction, is that these chemical seductions can happen to people with many hopes and dreams but sex could ruin their lives forever, with babies. We know that this girl wanted nothing from this boy but was tempted and she now is ‘three months gone’. It shows us here the reality that our actions under alcohol sometimes come back to haunt us. In the poem, she ‘sobbed in the cool, locked darkness of her room and she ripped up her my guy and Jackie photo comics until they were just bright paper, like confetti, strewn on the carpet,’ I think here, the girl feels very much cheated by the promises from the magazines and that they did not tell her the full story of sex and that it did not tell her that it would have this bad consequences.
The next verse then tells us how the pregnancy has robbed her of a part of her life, where she develops from a teenager into an adult, instead becoming from a teenager into a mother, which totally trips past what could have been an enjoyable part of her life for her. It also tell us of ‘stupid stupid stupid promises, only tacitly made’ I think this is similar in a way to my coy mistress because there is a type of charm being appeared to be used, in a way but we can only judge for ourselves if both of them want love from their woman. The final thing I have found out from this poem that people’s judgment of others can sometimes be far too stereotyped and people do not think about what they ay before criticizing others. ‘ You always looked the type’ is the reaction that many could see from neighbours but in this case, could be seen to be unfair because she has been seduced by teenage hood and drink from this boy. It shows us that maybe we judge people too quickly before knowing their situation.