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To His Coy Mistress -- Andrew Marvell

Guest poem sent in by Vikram Doctor -

Semiperiodic reminder - do keep submitting guest poems, people. And thanks
to Vikram for the number of excellent pieces he has sent in.
(Poem #158) 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
Shoulds't rubies find: I by the tide
Oh 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.
No 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 wing'ed chariot hurrying near
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy duty 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-chapt 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.
-- Andrew Marvell
Marvell's poem is charming and funny, but the reason I'm sending this is not
so much for the poem itself, as for how a friend of mine used it to get some
rather unlikely people to appreciate poetry. These were a group of college
jocks whom my friend was tutoring to prepare them for foreign study exams.
Marvell's poem was part of the syllabus and as might be expected, my friend
was not making much headway. He explained the meter, and the rhyme, and
Marvell's background, but all he was getting was waves of boredom. Finally,
he said, "listen guys, you know what this poem is about? Its about not
getting laid. The writer is complaining that his girlfriend is not giving
him enough"... After that tuition programme was over one of the jocks'
mother told him, "I'm really impressed by your teaching. I don't know how
you've done it, but my son is really into literature and poetry now."

Vikram Doctor

54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ajtimbs said...

Hi, I am writing an interpritation of Andrew Marvell "To His Coy Mistress"
and I am stumped on the part when he says, Thou by the Indian Ganges side
shouldst rubies find I by the tide of Humber would complain. If you have any
insite I would be interested.
Thanks, Meagan

jm.wilson said...

I think that Marvell is making an ironic contrast between the exotic river Ganges in India and the rather more pedestrian river Humber in Yorkshire, England.(Marvell was a native of this part of Yorkshire.)Hope this helps.
Anne W

Deborah Didden said...

I would like to thank you for having such a string on the net. If you know of any more similar, email me. I teach Brit Lit and enjoy using THCM for an essay length writing and project assignment. What do you think about "...amorous birds of prey..."? I enjoy that one. Like the students' faces when they research the mating habits of raptors. Hope you or someone is out there listening and enjoys discussing more along the lines of these lines.

V/R
T.L.Housman
Chester, South Carolina

ruth said...

Slight typo above in the 3rd last line. It should be "thorough" not "through". Same meaning I think at the time, but the extra beat of "thorough" adds to that passionate, pounding, urgent, earthy beat of that section, before Marvell changes pace with the a more spiritual, wistful last couplet.

Parklie01 said...

HI,
I'm doing an English project where I have been asked to present this
particular poem and I need a song that would be considered a good
representation of what the poem is saying. Do you have any suggestions?
Sincerely,
Usagii

Hilary Footitt said...

Hi,

I am writting in response to the question that you left on a message board, reguarding To His Coy Mistress.

I am writing an interpritation of Andrew Marvell "To His Coy Mistress"
and I am stumped on the part when he says, Thou by the Indian Ganges side
shouldst rubies find I by the tide of Humber would complain. If you have any
insite I would be interested.

In the time of Andrew Marvell and also of many other metaphysical poets there were explorers such as Christopher Collumbus exploring the world, and such poets like to incorparate these new lands and ideas into their work.

Rubies were believed to preserve virginity, which in the first stanza (the thesis) he is saying stating if they had enough time togethr that is what he would like to do.

India was an exotic land, full of colour and herbs etc, this is ironic because infact he is writting the poem next to the river Humber, which isn't as exciting and as the river Ganges.

Hope that helps
Katy Tranter

Charlotte Ledbetter said...

First of all, I love you for this site! It is so helpful. Secondly I need help with a question for my english class. I need to explain the figures in lines 22, 24, and 40 and what their implications are. If anyone could tell me, I'd really appreciate it.

Prevette Thaddeus S said...

hey, I had the same question, but just for the pleasure of poetry.
your insights are awsome, did you get them from years of study? Me, I am a scientist and don't know notin. But I do love english poetry.
cheers

Hjb935 said...

what image in the third section contrast with the distance between the Ganges
and the Humber?

RongKathy said...

Humber river is located in England, where Marvell lived all of his life,
which he considered a boring place. But the Ganges River in Indian is considered
an exotic place with many wonders. In a Formalistic view, during that time
period, England begin exploration and the discovery of exotic east. So the lady
is at the exotic east (admire her from far), with such a far distance between
them.

Ning said...

I would lkie to know the theme of this poem and what is the meaning of this poem. Thanks for answer.

William Grey said...

There are a couple of (obvious) typos in Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'; I
hope it's not too late to correct them. The first error is serious, the
second more pedantic -- perhaps even a legitimate modernization of the
spelling. (No such excuse for the first).

line 25: "duty" should be "beauty"
line 44: "through" should be "thorough"

William Grey

SAIDSJ said...

the poem t his coy mistress.

the part u were befumbled by...in those times when the poem was written the
ganges were considered of awe and wonder and humber which is a river in the
norht of england was considered a brong and rainy place. Andrew Marvell is
tryin to say that he would wait near humber while she travaled the exotics of the
world and he wouldnt mind thats how strong his love was for her.

Graeme Tetley said...

I think this is one of the loveliest poems in the language. It's
impetuosity and irony is so finely balanced until desire overwhelms
it ('tear our pleasures with rough strife'). The last two lines for
me are full of ruefulness and regret - their love making wont make
time stand still it will make times winged chariots travel even
faster. Read the last line with a rising voice and slight sense of
question to it,
And its all done with such consummate workmanship - the eight
syllable lines, rhyming couplets that are witty and clever and may
suddenly over run the rhyme and become huge and visionary - like a
Bach variation - (But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot
hurrying near/ And yonder all before us lie/Deserts of vast
eternity.) The pace of those lines with the hooves of time taking us
into the vision at the end is apocalyptic.
Regarding the Indian Ganges and tide of Humber. It comes clear if
you remember the opening lines and read it as - Had we but world
enough and time --- you by the Indian ganges side should Rubies find
- And I could stay at home and moan about it. But why? We are wasting
good time. We could be in bed.
P.S.
I think Meat Loaf 's Paradise by the dash board lights is a perfect
song to put beside 'Mistress'. A touch of genius in the suggestion.
It shows how things have changed with time too. (I once used the poem
with a group of young people and asked them to become the Coy
Mistress and write a letter of reply to Andrew Marvel. One letter,
from a young woman began ' Dear Andy, how dare you write me such a
fruity letter!'

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Anonymous said...

Excellent choice of poem, but there are lots of typos and errors in the version you have here, they really detract from the meaning and beauty of the poem.

Anonymous said...

Interesting read..

Anonymous said...

haha! this is so funny! these are the questions in my english book(high school). sound and sense is the book. you guys were really helpful on the answers and i enjoyed reading your in sites:)
Im just looking for the implications of lines 22, 24, and 40. But this site is really helpful

~kaseyjj14

Anonymous said...

Hey its me again for all the english kids working in sound & sense intro to poetry ? on page 88 about to his coy mistress this might help something
http://vb.arabsgate.com/showthread.php?t=516154
~kaseyjj14

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