Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
"To His Coy Mistress"
Thursady, March 16, 2000
Complied and Designed by BUCK LEE
The Life of Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
1621- born in Yorkshire, England (on March 31)
1624- his family moved to Hull
1633- studied in Trinity College, Cambridge
1638- graduated from Trinity College
1640 - left Cambridge ( because of his father's death);
1642 held a clerkship in his brother-in-law's trading house
1650- become the tutor of Mary Fairfax
1653 - tutored Cromwell's ward
1657- 1657- appointed assistant to John Milton (by then blind)
1659- elected M.P. for his hometown of Hull 1678- came to his death (on August 18)
"To His Coy Mistress"
1 Had we but world enough, and time,
2 This coyness, lady, were no crime.
3 We would sit down and think which way
4 To walk, and pass our long love's day;
If we have enough world and time,
This coyness was no crime.
We should sit down, and think which way to walk,
And pass our long lovely day.
5 Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
6 Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
7 Of Humber would complain. I would
Youshould find rubies from the Indian Ganges' side, and I can wait for you
by the river's side of Humber.
8 Love you ten years before the Flood;
9 And you should, if you please refuse
10 Till the conversion of the Jews.
I would love you ten years before the beginning of the world,
you can refuse me until before the end of the world.
11 My vegetable love should grow
12 Vaster than empires, and more slow;
13 An hundred years should go to praise
14 Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
15 Two hundred to adore each breast,
16 But thirty thousand to the rest;
My love should grow very slowly and remain still, which is vaster than empires,
And even more slow;
I will spend a hundred years to praise your eyes and gaze on your forehead;
I will spend thirty thousand yours to adore your body;
17 An age at least to every part,
18 And the last age should show your heart.
19 For, lady, you deserve this state,
20 Nor would I love at lower rate.
I will spend an age at least to adore every other part of the rest of your body,
And the last age, you can show me your heart.
Because you deserve this dignity,
And I would love you the best as I can.
21 But at my back I always hear
22 Time's winged chariot hurrying near; [painting2]
23 And yonder all before us lie [painting1]
24 Deserts of vast eternity.
But I always hear the time flying at my back in a hurry; And in front of us is a vast eternity desert of non-existence,
25 Thy beauty shall no more be found,
26 Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
27 My echoing song; then worms shall try
28 That long preserv'd virginity,
And your beauty should be no more found,
Neither in your grave can be my echoing song found.
Then the worm shall try the long preserved virginity.
29 And your quaint honour turn to dust,
30 And into ashes all my lust.
31 The grave's a fine and private place,
32 But none I think do there embrace.
Your honor will turn to dust, and my lust will also turn to ashes.
Nobody would like to embrace in the grave, although it is a fine and private place.
33 Now therefore, while the youthful hue [painting7]
34 Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
35 And while thy willing soul transpires
36 At every pore with instant fires,
Therefore when your youthful color is still on your skin,
Which is like the morning dew, And when your pores are still passionate,
37 Now let us sport us while we may; [painting5][painting6]
38 And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
39 Rather at once our time devour,
40 Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us make love while we may, like amorous birds of prey,
I rather devour our time at once than languish by the slow-chapped time.
41 Let us roll all our strength, and all [painting3][painting4]
42 Our sweetness, up into one ball;
43 And tear our pleasures with rough strife
44 Thorough the iron gates of life.
Let us roll our strength and sweetness together,
And tear our pleasure with rough fight,
Our energy can run through the iron gates of time.
45 Thus, though we cannot make our sun
46 Stand still, yet we will make him run.
We cannot stop the sun,
But we make it melt by our passion.
coy (adj.) 14th century "quiet, shy", from Middle French // Woman: shy, or pretend to be shy about love and sex
Mistress (n.) 15th century 1 : a woman who has power, authority, or ownership 2. a woman other than his wife with whom a married man has a continuing sexual
Indian Ganges (L.5) (n.) river 1550 miles in India flowing from the Himalayas SE & E to Bay of Bengal a(India)
Humber (L.7) (n.) name of a small river in Marvell's hometown a(England)
Flood (L.8) (n.) before 12th century CAPITALIZED: a flood described in the Bible as covering the earth in the time of Noah a (This word suggests the beginning of the world)
The conversion of the Jews (L.10) (n.) which will occur before the end of the world a(the end of the world)
vegetable love (L.11) (n.) vegetable soul- The most basic kind of soul in living things animal soul- animals rational soul - The most advanced kind of souls found in human beings a(love: lower, basic)
chariot (L.22) (n.) Middle English 14th century a two-wheeled horse-drawn battle car used in ancient times in fighting and racing
yonder (L.23) (adv.) 14th century over there / distant
quaint (L.29) (adj.) 13th century attractive, but unusual & rather old-fashioned hue (L.33) (n.) before 12th century = color (n.)
devour (L.39) (v.) 14th century to use up or destroy as if by eating
lust (L.30) (n.) before 12th century a feeling of strong sexual desire for someone
languish (L.40) (v.) 14th century be forced to suffer in an unpleasant situation
By Grace Huang ( Cited from www.m-w.com)
The poem was divided into three parts according to Scholastic Syllogism. Stanza One and Stanza Two are the Premises. And Stanza Three is the Conclusion. The logical arguments are 1. " If we had" 2. "But" and 3. "Therefore". We might see the influence of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.
The leading arguments are followings.
The first Stanza shows that the space and time are eternal. The second Stanza shows that we are not eternal. The last Stanza shows that we only have to live our every moment for fun.
The second arguments are about eternal love and physical lust. Eternal love is lasting long, so the first Stanza is long. The life of the coy mistress is short, so the second Stanza is short. The last part is the shortest, because that kind of things is just a spark.
A man, who is wooing the woman, tries to persuade her to make love with him.
A coy young woman who wouldn't accept the man's love.
1. morning dew
this represents the crystal-clear skin of the mistress
2. am'rous birds of prey
the strength of speed, consumption of passion these represent the delightful groans made by a pair of lovers when they are making love with each other ( By Joyce)
1. vegetable love
Marvell cited this term to indicate that this kind of love is capable only of passive growth, not of consciousness, although it grows longer, slower, and vaster ¡]You may add The Flood and the conversion of the Jews¡^(By Joyce)
From this poem, I can feel the passion of this man, the speaker, and how much he admired the coy Mistress, the listener. However, when I re-thought the title of this poem after I read the whole poem, I had the opinion as follows:
I thought the Mistress might be a woman having power and a fortune. She might be a queen of a kingdom, or a lover of a king or a duke, and she knew that the speaker liked and adored her before the speaker wrote this poem but she did not accept him because of her high social class and authority. She might be touched by this poem and have relationship with this man but their relationship might be continued privately because the Mistress wants to keep her position.
Usually people have different feeling after they read a same poem. Some people pay attention to its sound and enjoy its rhythm, and some people like to note the word choice. I like to imagine why a poet writes a poem and what the poem will cause. ( Grace Huang )
To His Coy Mistress is also a metaphysical poem, which takes time and space to symbolize and exaggerate his love to his coy mistress in order to persuade her to make love with him. I like metaphysical poems very much as The Flea , because reading those poems is filled of surprises and you can never imagine how the poet be so creative to take the flood, the Jews or the worms in graves to link with his great love and lust; the flea links to their sexual relationship. If I were that mistress, it is easy to be allured by the poem, even I was coy. It makes me think that I shouldn't be so coy because life is short, and I should have fun when I am still young and beautiful. However, I wouldn't be persuaded by his exaggerating sweet talking of making love with him, because he is not really in love with me - line18, and the last age should show your heart, which obviously shows that he just wants sex rather than a lover. ( Sophia)
If I were his mistress, I think I would not promise him. Though he used many terms to show that time flies and she should seize every moment with him, I think those are not persuasive enough. True love should be based on trust and concern. It seems that the man was eager to get the sexual relationship with her, but he didn't show any signs of love before he proposed the request. Besides, the man tried to lift his mistress up by praising and admiring her and even used the long period of time to let her understand how deep his love toward her is, but a wise woman should not be hoodwinked by superficial sweet and fine-sounding words.
However, there is another possibility that if the man is truly and deeply fell in love with her, but it is coyness that made the woman refuse his request from beginning to the end, this poem may be considered as a warn to the woman. Through this poem the man could remind her that time will pass very fast if she didn't nod her head quickly. Then they both can't enjoy the delightful time when they are together. (Joyce )
I think that it is a wild poem, especially when I understand this poem deeply. It differs from Chinese love poem. It is not conservative anymore. Even in the modern age, most people won't talk about love frankly and totally. However, the author describes the time and space successfully.
His description makes people feel that Carpe Diem is so significant. We should persuade what we love or like right away or that will be a pity. This poem shows the idea strongly. Besides, it makes people believe that the author must be full of passion and energy. It seems that his strong confidence can have great influence on not only the lady that he is wooing but also the world. For me, though I am not old, sometimes I do not have so much passion to life. Therefore, I think it is important to live an optimistic and aggressive life. After all, life is filled with chances and challenges. Only keeping the faith and facing everything actively can make the word become better and different. I hope that one day, I will be able to persuade what I really want without hesitate. ( Claire)
Questions for Discussion
1. If you were the speaker, would you use this strategy?
2. If you were the listener, would you be attempted by him or the poem?
3. Do you think the speaker is looking for a lover or a sexual companion?
¡]typed and edited by Blues¡^
Salcador Dali The Persistence of Memory, 1931
Gustav Klimit The Kiss, 1907-8
Kees Van Dongen Tango,1923-35
Joan MiroWomen and Bird in the Moonlight,, 1949
Joan MiroWomen Encircled by the Flight of a Bird, 1941
Edvard Munch The Kiss,1897
Amedeo Modigliani Nude Reclining on a White Cushion, 1917.