Summary of Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress

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

Summary

In this poem, a lover addresses his beloved who refuses to grant him sexual favours on account of her modesty and her sense of honour. The lover says that her coyness or sexual reluctance would have been justified if they had enough space and time at their disposal. If they had enough space at their disposal, she could have occupied herself by searching for rubies on the banks of the Indian river, the Ganga, while he would complain about his unfulfilled love on the banks of the river Humber in England. If they had enough time at their disposal, he would have started loving her ten years before the great flood (mentioned in the Bible) while she could refuse to satisfy his desire till Judgment Day when the Jews might agree to be converted to Christianity. If they really had enough time, he would spend a hundred years in praising her eyes and gazing on her forehead; he would spend two hundred years in admiring each of her breasts, and he would spend thirty thousand years in praising the remaining parts of her body. She really deserves so much praise and adoration says the lover.

But all this is not possible, the lover goes on to say. Time is passing at a very fast pace, and eventually, they have to face the “deserts of vast eternity”. After some years, her beauty will no longer be found on this earth. She will lie in her marble tomb, and he would no longer be there to sing his love song. There, in the grave, worms will attack her long-preserved virginity. All her nice sense of honour will then turn to dust, and all his desire to make love to her will then turn to ashes. The grave is a fine and private place, but nobody can enjoy the pleasure of love-making there.

Therefore, it would be appropriate for both of them to enjoy the pleasures of love when there is still time, when her skin is still youthful and fresh, and when her responsive soul is still burning with a desire for love-making. They should, like amorous birds of prey, devour the pleasures of love, which now time still permits them to enjoy, rather than that they should suffer the pangs of unsatisfied love. They should roll all their strength and all their sweetness into one cannonball and shoot it through the iron gates of life. (In other words, they should enjoy the pleasure of love-making with all their energy and vigour, and they should even become fierce in extracting the maximum pleasure from their love-making). If they cannot arrest the passage of time, they can at least quicken time’s speed of passing.

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