Syllogistic Structure in Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress”

Syllogism is a process in logic-a sort of deductive reasoning. It is a form of logic to deduce a conclusion from two given or assumed propositions. The propositions state the arguments from which the conclusion follows logically. A syllogism is a kind of intellectualism and it constitutes a part of the argumentation of the metaphysical poetry. This is unconventional and untraditional in poetry. It occupies a good deal of space in metaphysical poetry, as tangible or perceptible in Donne and Marvell in particular.

Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress deals with the conventional carpe-diem theme in a manner that is entirely different from an Elizabethan love-lyric. The poem deals with the age-old idea of the need for the enjoyment of love in a transitory world. The poet’s main contention is to enjoy love in the prime of life. “Seize the day and make the best use of it”-is the general principle of the poem. But what is particularly striking is the way of Marvell’s approach to this prevalent theme- how he builds up his carpe-diem theme. This is positively innovative and even prosaic and too argumentative and logical for poetry.

The poem is constructed like a syllogism in the form of reasoning to deduce the main contention. This poem has three parts. The first part comprising the first twenty lines contains the first proposition. The next twelve lines constitute the second part, and it states the second proposition. The conclusion is drawn from these two propositions in the remaining lines.

In the first proposition, the poet fancies a world in which the lover may have an infinite time to make love and adore each other. In such a situation, the lady’s coyness would not be a crime. She may deny to surrender herself to the intense passion of her lover. The lover, on his part, may wait, continue to praise her physical beauty, part by part for long years together. After all, she deserves to enjoy the long series of compliments from her lover for many years. This is the first proposition and it is rightly based on the possibility of a particular incident. Of course, the poet’s tone is light and witty.

The second proposition denies the first. The poet asserts firmly that no one has infinite time at his or her disposal. The allotted span of life is extremely brief, and man is intermittently pursued by, “Time’s winged chariot”. Death lies close to this life with its vast emptiness. There is a candid confession of this stern and unavoidable truth. “And yonder all before us lie / Deserts of vast Eternity”.

The poet goes further in his second proposition to display the stupidity or futility of shyness in a transient world. He has drawn the realistic image of the lady’s body lying in her graveyard, with the worms tasting and enjoying her blushfulness. The poet’s tone gradually becomes serious and it also conveys a sling of banter and wry humor, this is noticeable in the following lines: “The Grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace.”

Therefore, the poet has derived his conclusion with an instructive note and in the sense of urgency. The very word ‘therefore, in line 33 suggests the process of his logic. As long as youth survives and passion inflames, the lover must shake off all their hesitation, fluctuation and they should come forward to enjoy themselves fully. They should not languish in the ‘slow-chapt power’ of time bat instead sport with and enjoy their short time “like amorous birds of prey’. The poet has insisted on seizing the present moment to “roll all their strength and all their sweetness up into one ball’. The poet is determined for a robust, rather violent enjoyment of life-“And tear our pleasures with rough strife, / Through the Iron gates of life”.

The final couplet gives the conclusion of the argument. The lover cannot certainly stop time, but they can make the best use of it by the lavish and free gratification of their senses and sexes. They can even chase time, as it were, by seizing every opportunity for the full and the proper utilization of their youth and life. They can also defy and threaten time by the vigor and energy of their love and life: “Though we can not make our sun/ stand still, yet we will make him run”. Indeed, Marvell’s
balanced and his conclusion comes naturally as the inevitable deduction from his propositions. All this declares Marvell as an essentially intellectual poet.