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 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. The structure of the poem follows that of a logical argument.
It is divided in three stanzas and each stanza contributes to the development of the author’s theme. The first stanza in the first two lines shows how the mistress deserves to be courted forever, but that time makes that impossible. The second stanza then develops this situation and presents what will happen if she actually prolongs her coyness and doesn’t accept the love of the speaker. The third stanza then finally invites the mistress to agree with the speaker by making reference to all the positive aspects that will result from them being together.
The rhyme scheme of the poem is aa bb cc dd ee… The use of strange diction makes reference to the Enlightenment Period and the use of metaphysical poetry. The author includes a reference to the Ganges River in India in the first poem. This alludes also to the recent discoveries of these lands by Europe and the advancements in exploration that had been going on at this time. Also in the first stanza the author qualifies the mistress as “vegetable love” to establish the metaphor of the growth of a plant to their love growing forever.
Even though the metaphor makes sense, it is unusual for a lady to be compared with a plant. Finally in the first stanza the author quantifies the love that he feels for the mistress by showing the exact number of years that he will last admiring her. In the second stanza there is a personification of time riding a winged chariot. This might make reference to Greek mythology. This gives time the power of a god having control over human beings. In the same stanza the author presents the image of the mistress’s beauty fading away over time. This makes a direct link to the “carpe diem” theme.
Finally with harsh diction, “worms” and “grave”, the author creates the image of the mistress dying virgin not able to love someone. The third stanza shows a change in tone from the former. The diction shifts and words like “soul”, “dew”, “morning”, “youthful”, and “strength” evoke a mood of positivism and happiness. This is to make the mistress feel invited to opt for this option instead of the one presented in the second stanza. Also the personification of the sun concludes his idea. He states that no one can stop the sun (stopping time forever) but that they rather should take advantage of it. The poem is written in an iambic tetrameter.