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date: 21 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores Marvell’s best-known and most esteemed lyric poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ in the context of the long tradition of carpe diem (‘seize the moment’) poetry, and argues that Marvell does not merely engage in playful parody of this often (especially in Latin) sexually frank genre, but also points to what was understood to be its ultimate origin in the epigrams of the Greek Anthology, still being rediscovered in Marvell’s day, and one in particular by Asclepiades. Marvell was interested in the poetic power of this lyric tradition, acknowledging yet surpassing poetry’s power to describe erotic encounter, shunning associations with alcohol in poetic tradition, in order to imagine a new order of experience that is the sole domain of poetry, connecting sexual climax with awareness of the elemental structure of the universe in time and space; hence new ways of contemplating mortality.

Keywords: Book of Common Prayer, carpe diem, death, epicureanism, erotic verse, gender, Greek Anthology, Lucretius, Ovid

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