Saturday, March 12, 2011

Classic Poetry - (To his coy Mistress) Andrew Marvell

To his Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

~ Andrew Marvell

What are your thoughts on this poem? What are your thoughts on Andrew Marvell? Do you have any poems or anything else written by him you prefer? Please feel free to share your thoughts on either the poem displayed here or whatever you wish about Andrew Marvell in the comment section below.

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  1. A line I quote often and often in my life, and even wrote in my first comment to you, 'had (I) but world enough, and time'...
    But that's about all I like!! I do not like 'the conversion of the Jews' part, nor the pressure the poet is placing on his so-called Beloved, trapping her into being bedded quickly, for time shall pass, and with it, her beauty.

    Awful awful man!! But he was enjoying himself as he wrote it, and it is an inescapable poem within the context of being an English literature student.

    What I want to know is, what did she say in response?? Did she agree 'to tear pleasures with rough strife' or just turn him down??

  2. I have read that he was a wretcha nd fiend in life. I really need to look inot him further. He has a reputation that is not the gretaetst and yet he has many popular poems and writings. Iguess it takes all kinds huh?

    A neat prompt for some may be to write a response poem to this one. I'd be curious to see your Shaista

  3. This is one of my favorite poems, even though it's true that all he is really saying is, give it up! Hardly likely, Andy, but nice try. Even though what he is saying is banal and self-serving, the way he says it is gorgeous. And like the first commenter, I have been known to quote that opening from time to time! However, no one ever knows what I'm on about.

    Another reason I love this poem is because we studied it in school and it was one of the first poems that made me really notice poetry. Even today, I think the two lines about the grave being a fine and private place where none, he thinks, do there embrace, is one of the best ever written. In the sense that time is not inexhaustable, I'm with him all the way. And yet, as with Robert Herrick in "To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time" ("Gather ye rosebuds while ye may...") all these old male poets seem to couch it in terms of young honeys giving it up as soon as poossible, presumably to them. That pretty much gives the lie to any loftier ideas being at work.


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