The Grave's a fine and private place; But none, I think, do there embrace.

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Question

Reference to context

The Grave's a fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.

Dec'2018

 

Answer

Reference

The above lines are taken from the poem ‘To Coy His Mistress’ written and composed by Andrew Marvell.

Context

Andrew Marvell is an English poet, politician, and satirist who belong to a group commonly known as the "Metaphysical Poets”. His poems are famous for the surprising use of language to explore BIG questions about love, sex, the earth, the universe, and the divine. Marvell probably wrote "To His Coy Mistress" between 1650 and 1652. It was first published in 1681 (by his housekeeper!) several years after his death.

"To His Coy Mistress" is a carpe diem poem: following the example of Roman poets like Horace, it urges a young woman to enjoy the pleasures of life before death claims her. Indeed, the poem is an attempt to seduce the titular "coy mistress". In the process, however, the speaker dwells with grotesque intensity on death itself. Death seems to take over the poem, displacing the speaker's erotic energy and filling the poem with dread.

Explanation

The speaker describes his mistress's still and silent grave, where the virginity she worked so hard to protect in life will be eaten up by worms. Her body, specifically the parts she would have used for making love, will be dust, and his desire for her will be ash. Despite the quiet and privacy, no one makes love in a grave.

Analysis

This poem is a dramatic monologue. The silent listener (the mistress) is addressed but we do not hear her voice. There is the sense that we, the reader, are eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. The speaker is anonymous and we are given no information about him or his mistress. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter. The regular “sing-song” rhythm and rhyme creates a “comic” feel which contrasts strongly with the underlying theme of life and death. The speaker’s rhetoric changes from an acknowledgement of the Lady’s limitless virtue to insisting on the radical limitations of their time as embodied beings. Once dead, he assures the Lady, her virtues and her beauty will lie in the grave along with her body as it turns to dust. Likewise, the speaker imagines his lust being reduced to ashes, while the chance for the two lovers to join sexually will be lost forever.


 

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