Explanation of Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress

To His Coy Mistress is a poem written by Andrew Marvell.


Stanza 1

Lady, if we had only enough time and enough geographical space at our disposal, I would not find fault with your coyness. In that case, we would sit down, and think which way to walk; and we would thus spend our long period of time which we would get to love each other. In that case, you would be free to wander on the banks of the river Ganges (or Ganga) in India and search for rubies, while I would complain about my unfulfilled love on the banks of the river Humber in England. I would also, in that case, start loving you ten years before the great flood which is mentioned in the Bible; while you would be free, if you so wished, to refuse to love me till the day the Jews agree to be converted to Christianity. In that case, having endless time at our disposal, I would spend one hundred years to praise your eyes and to gaze on your forehead. I would then spend two hundred years to worship each of your breasts. But I would need thirty thousand years to praise the remaining parts of your body. I would spend at least an age to praise each limb of your body, and the last age would be devoted to a description of your heart. All this pomp and ceremony you deserve, Lady, and I would not estimate your value at a lower rate.

Stanza 2

But the trouble is that I always hear behind me the sound of the flying chariot of Time travelling at great speed to overtake us, and there before us lie the barren and endless stretches of Eternity. A time would come when your beauty would no longer be visible on this earth; nor would you, while lying in your marble tomb, hear the sound of my echoing love song. Then worms will Violate your long-preserved virginity, and your proud chastity will turn to dust, while all my sensual desire for you will change into ashes. The grave is a fine and private place, but it is not possible, in my opinion, for human beings to make love to each other there.

Stanza 3

Now is the time, therefore, for us to make love to each other when it is still possible for us to do so, when the youthful complexion of your skin shines brightly like the dew-drops of the morning, and when your responsive soul burns through every pore of your body with the fire of passion. And now, like birds of prey overcome by their passion, we should rather utilize our time to satisfy our desires greedily than suffer slowly in the grip of Time which will grind us slowly in its cruel jaws. Let us, therefore, collect all our strength and all our mutual attraction for each other and give to them the shape of a cannonball which is shot into a city with great violence. Let us use all our vigour and energy to enjoy the pleasures of sex, disregarding all obstacles put in our way by life (or fate). In this way, even though we are not able to bring Time to a stand-still, we shall be able to quicken its pace.

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