Andrew Marvell
To His Coy Mistress (1681)

 

Had we but world enough, and time,

 

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

 

We would sit down, and think which way

4

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

8

Love you ten years before the flood,

 

And you should, if you please, refuse

 

Till the conversion of the Jews;

 

My vegetable love should grow

12

Vaster than empires and more slow;

 

An hundred years should go to praise

 

Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;

 

Two hundred to adore each breast,

16

But thirty thousand to the rest;

 

An age at least to every part,

 

And the last age should show your heart.

 

For, lady, you deserve this state;

20

Nor would I love at lower rate.

 

 

 

But at my back I always hear

 

Time's winged chariot hurrying near;

 

And yonder all before us lie

24

Deserts of vast eternity.

 

Thy beauty shall no more be found,

 

Nor in thy marble vault shall sound

 

My echoing song; then worms shall try

28

That long preserved virginity;

 

And your quaint honor turn to dust,

 

And into ashes all my lust:

 

The grave's a fine and private place,

32

But none, I think, do there embrace.

 

 

 

Now therefore, while the youthful hue

 

Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

 

And while thy willing soul transpires

36

At every pore with instant fires,

 

Now let us sport us while we may,

 

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

 

Rather at once our time devour

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Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

 

Let us roll all our strength and all

 

Our sweetness up into one ball,

 

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

44

Through the iron gates of life:

 

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

 

Stand still, yet we will make him run.


2. coyness: modesty, without calculation.

11. vegetable love: capable only of passive growth, not of consciousness.