One of My Top Ten


One of My Top Ten Favorites

I am certain that I have not posted, nor have I seen posted, this, among the most spectacular of the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets ("Society members," he said, primly through pursed lips, "attend.") I present to you one of my very favorite poems of all time. (Tres triste, if I disappoint, but I must fess up).

To His Coy Mistress 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.

Yes, I know, and cheerfully admit, the most elaborate come-on line in all of history. But I have had such good use for a few of the lines. For nearly any decision making operation or planning event in any business, "Vaster than empires and more slow." And ultimately, putting a kind of Christian cast to the whole thing, I could very easily envision Jesus saying to each soul, "Had we world enough and time, this coyness lady were no crime." How often we refuse His advances--and the metaphysicals did not have the extreme body/soul divisions that show up starting with the Puritans. If we recall, part of the marriage vows during this time was the line, "With my body, I pledge thee troth."

Oh well. Don't make too much of it, but do please enjoy the lush language and imagery. It truly deserves its status as one of the most anthologized poems ever. (So do "Richard Cory" and "Miniver Cheever," but we won't go there.)

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 6, 2002 8:43 AM.

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