Friday, August 12, 2011

Had we but world enough, and time

I was rushing this morning from one thing to another and the first line of Marvell's To His Coy Mistress leapt into my head. I had to find the whole thing and read it then and there. How marvellous it is (excuse the pun) - how modern - how funny. Isn't this unbeatable?

The grave's a fine and private place, 
But none, I think, do there embrace

Marvell's message in the poem,  to seize the day and 'sport ... while we may', is not why the first line line popped into my head you understand. I was just thinking how I'd like to hear less of 'time's winged chariot' and have more time to gobble up my own vegetable loves: writing, lying around with a book  ... Oh well, taking a sliver of time to read and think about one excellent poem is a welcome pause in the headlong rush of a Friday morning. I recommend it. Now, better get on...

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell.

HAD we but world enough, and time, 
This coyness, Lady, were no crime 
We would sit down and think which way 
To walk and pass our long love's day. 
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side         5
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.  10
My vegetable love should grow 
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,  15
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, 
Nor would I love at lower rate.  20
  But at my back I always hear 
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near; 
And yonder all before us lie 
Deserts of vast eternity. 
Thy beauty shall no more be found,  25
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:  30
The grave 's a fine and private place, 
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  35
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 
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.  40
Let us roll all our strength and all 
Our sweetness up into one ball, 
And tear our pleasures with rough strife 
Thorough the iron gates of life: 
Thus, though we cannot make our sun  45
Stand still, yet we will make him run. 


Helen Lowe said...

Mary, this is a GREAT poem and now you have made me appreciate it all over again--thank you!

lillyanne said...

Yes! What Helen said!

Stephen Stratford said...

My favourite poem of all time.

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks Belinda, Helen and Stephen. I have rather a crush on this poem at the moment, and Andrew Marvell too. Found it on youtube delivered wonderfully by actor Damien Lewis - do check it out:

And Stephen, if only we'd had world enough and time to talk a little longer at the PM's Awards, but great to meet up.