Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” is a carpe diem poem in which the speaker, possibly Marvell himself, attempts to convince his mistress to sleep with him. He argues that if they do not begin a physical relationship soon, their time will run out; there is therefore no time for her coyness. However, the speaker persuades gently in the beginning by stating that, in another universe, he would fully understand his mistress’s attitude.
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.
Had they all the time in the world, the speaker’s mistress could walk by the Ganges River in India in pursuit of treasure while the speaker protests her refusals from England. In this imagined scenario, the speaker’s love for her would form near the beginning of the biblical timeline, and she could refuse his advances until “the conversion of the Jews,” which many Christians believe will take place near the end of the world.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
After attempting to flatter his mistress and seeming to validate her coyness, the speaker brings his fantasy of timelessness to an end. He personifies Time, feeling it to be constantly chasing them in its “wingèd chariot”; they are being driven ever closer to their deaths and the “eternity” that lies there. This conveys a sense of urgency, as the speaker goes on to describe how soon the grave will find him and his lover.
Thy beauty 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;
In death, the relationship between the speaker and his mistress will be over. Her “beauty,” “virginity,” and “honour” will come to nothing, as will his “lust” and “song” of praise. He implies here...
(The entire section is 586 words.)