Please describe the types of activities Andrew Marvell would undertake if he had "world enough and time" in the poem "To His Coy Mistress."

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writergal06 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem's speaker addresses the passion and urgency that he feels about his love, trying to persuade her to put off her coyness for the sensation of passion. In the first stanza, the speaker talks about what he would do to win her love, if they "had...but world enough, and time." These activites include a long walks, finding precious stones, writing love songs, and tireless gazing on his love's beauty. In short, if he had enough time, he would spend decades and centuries courting her with all the traditional symbols of courtship. However, in stanza 2 he comes back to reality and urgency. He does not have decades or centuries to win her love and shower her with affection -- no, he is not even guaranteed another day. They must embrace their passion and love in this moment, not sure when another will come (if ever). So the speaker pleads with his love to come to him in this instance, so they can fully enjoy their love while they have strength to do so.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given enough time, the speaker tells his "coy mistress" that they could sit for hours before deciding where to walk.  She could hunt for rubies at her leisure along a river in India while he sits and complains by one in England.  He could pursue her for a decade, and she could put him off indefinitely.  He could devote many centuries to appreciate the parts of her face and body, and he would be content to let his love deepen and widen slowly.  He makes it clear that he considers her love and virtue worth waiting for.

However, because the speaker knows that human life does not span the centuries he described in the first stanza, he presses his coy mistress to "sport us while we may."  He describes the wasteland of her grave, in which the worms will take her virginity and his lust will turn to ashes.  His final point is that they cannot stop time, but they can make it pass very quickly together.

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To His Coy Mistress

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