Guest poem sent in by William Grey
(Poem #1567) His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell
Since you have world enough and time Sir, to admonish me in rhyme, Pray Mr Marvell, can it be You think to have persuaded me? Then let me say: you want the art To woo, much less to win my heart. The verse was splendid, all admit, And, sir, you have a pretty wit. All that indeed your poem lacked Was logic, modesty, and tact, Slight faults and ones to which I own, Your sex is generally prone; But though you lose your labour, I Shall not refuse you a reply: First, for the language you employ: A term I deprecate is "coy"; The ill-bred miss, the bird-brained Jill, May simper and be coy at will; A lady, sir, as you will find, Keeps counsel, or she speaks her mind, Means what she says and scorns to fence And palter with feigned innocence. The ambiguous "mistress" next you set Beside this graceless epithet. "Coy mistress", sir? Who gave you leave To wear my heart upon your sleeve? Or to imply, as sure you do, I had no other choice than you And must remain upon the shelf Unless I should bestir myself? Shall I be moved to love you, pray, By hints that I must soon decay? No woman's won by being told How quickly she is growing old; Nor will such ploys, when all is said, Serve to stampede us into bed. When from pure blackmail, next you move To bribe or lure me into love, No less inept, my rhyming friend, Snared by the means, you miss your end. "Times winged chariot", and the rest As poetry may pass the test; Readers will quote those lines, I trust, Till you and I and they are dust; But I, your destined prey, must look Less at the bait than at the hook, Nor, when I do, can fail to see Just what it is you offer me: Love on the run, a rough embrace Snatched in the fury of the chase, The grave before us and the wheels Of Time's grim chariot at our heels, While we, like "am'rous birds of prey", Tear at each other by the way. To say the least, the scene you paint Is, what you call my honour, quaint! And on this point what prompted you So crudely, and in public too, To canvass and , indeed, make free With my entire anatomy? Poets have licence, I confess, To speak of ladies in undress; Thighs, hearts, brows, breasts are well enough, In verses this is common stuff; But -- well I ask: to draw attention To worms in -- what I blush to mention, And prate of dust upon it too! Sir, was this any way to woo? Now therefore, while male self-regard Sits on your cheek, my hopeful bard, May I suggest, before we part, The best way to a woman's heart Is to be modest, candid, true; Tell her you love and show you do; Neither cajole nor condescend And base the lover on the friend; Don't bustle her or fuss or snatch: A suitor looking at his watch Is not a posture that persuades Willing, much less reluctant maids. Remember that she will be stirred More by the spirit than the word; For truth and tenderness do more Than coruscating metaphor. Had you addressed me in such terms And prattled less of graves and worms, I might, who knows, have warmed to you; But, as things stand, must bid adieu (Though I am grateful for the rhyme) And wish you better luck next time.
(1907-2000) An effective rejoinder to a great poem requires a poet of greatness, and one who appreciates and respects the genius under attack. No poet was able to do this more effectively than Australian poet A.D. Hope (1907-2000). In his introduction to this rejoinder Hope commented: This most famous of all Marvell's poems is deservedly so. Yet it is a brilliant tour de force in which the poet's imaginative language triumphs over the fact that his arguments to the lady are a set of worn-out clichés, which were never very persuasive even when they were new -- but the lady can best speak for herself. Marvell's most famous poem was an early contribution to Wondering Minstrels (Poem #158). 'His Coy Mistress to Mr Marvell' was published in Hope's Book of Answers (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1978), which includes a number of gems -- though none more brilliant than this Marvell parody. (It includes a fine parody of Gerard Manley "Hop-skip-jump-kins" -- which I may submit at some future time.) The power of Hope's language, and the range of genres which he commanded, were immense. He is a poet of considerable stature not just within Australia, but globally. William