A big shout out to Andrew Marvell, on behalf of all of us (every heterosexual male) who is or has been an impatient would-be lover trying to overcome the prevarication of the girl of our dreams. Let’s just do it, tonight, now…
Marvell wonderfully goes through the arguments – if time were limitless, courtship could be worthy of the desired one , with years dedicated to praising each aspect of her beauty. But time is limited, we will get old, we will die, so let’s do it now before its too late.
Who could resist such an argument. Invoke your inner 17 year old self when reading this poem.
To His Coy Mistress
BY ANDREW MARVELL
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 wingèd 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-preserved 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 amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
When you have fallen in love with the words and sentiments of this poem, then look at the way it is constructed in rhyming couplets, hurrying the reader forward, echoing the haste of the poet to win over his love and get her between the sheets.
This poem of course is another manifestation of carpe diem, but here it is applied carpe diem, carpe diem with an urgent purpose. Like the 1980s song from Olivia Newton-John, “Let’s get physical”.
Marvell navigated the turbulent world of seventeenth century England, surviving civil war, the execution of the king, the puritan dictatorship and then restoration, keeping his head while many others were losing theirs. To produce a poem like this in the midst of such turmoil proclaims his humanity from the rooftops.
The Poetry Dude