Sie sind auf Seite 1von 7

To His Coy Mistress

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 Loves Day. Thou by the Indian
Ganges side Should'st 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. 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, 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.

But at my back I alwaies hear Times winged Chariot hurrying near: And yonder all before
us lye Desarts of vast Eternity. Thy Beauty shall no more be found; Nor, in thy marble
Vault, shall sound My echoing Song: then Worms shall try That long preserv'd Virginity:
And your quaint Honour turn to dust; And into ashes all my Lust. The Grave's a fine and
private place, But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hew Sits on thy skin like morning dew, And while thy
willing Soul transpires At every pore with instant Fires, Now let us sport us while we
may; And now, like am'rous birds of prey, Rather at once our Time devour, Than languish
in his slow-chapt pow'r. 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 Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Marvell’s achievement in English poetry is supported by very few poems, which focus on
things relating to Renaissance understanding of love as a pervasive metaphysical
principle, a faculty or even a potential fulfillment implied, an understanding of the magic
on which the whole universe seems to have been constructed. The Renaissance concept
of love follows from Platonic premises, which are explained by Diotima in Plato’s
Symposium. But we also discover the synthesis of classical and medieval forms of
literary artifacts in the Elizabethan poetry. Again Marvell had the supreme command of
the comic medium of poetry, which characterizes such distinguished writers of
metaphysical school as Herick, Lovelace and Suckling, whose poetry was comparatively
free from more serious moral concern; on the other hand, Marvell’s poetry has a genuine
transcendental bias, even a doctrinal tension in love as in Donne, and finally a masculine
strength in the verbal articulation of poetry.
To His Coy Mistress consists of separate sections or stanzas linked in syllogistic chain,
and employs those standard terms of reference, which were used by Aristotle to illustrate
the validity of truth in Inductive Logic. The first movement of the poem is introduced by
the supposition “had we”and continues to enlist a series of hyperboles, which suggests
that, if they had a sufficient expanse of time and space in their hand—the lovers could
desist consummation wit sweet admirations and shy denials. The fundamental opposition
to amorous dallying is posed by the consciousness of the brevity of human life. The
anxiety generated by the sense that life is short, dismissive of human interest, provides
some of the basic themes for poetry in classical antiquity. Horace introduced the carpe
diem theme in his odes, one of which contains the famous lines including the phrase,
which translated stands for an appeal to “seize the day,”

“Carpe diem of credula …minimum posters.”


What Horace actually suggests is a need for the stoical endurance of life, an ascetic
possession of the self. But in Marvell’s poem the stoical carpe diem has been transformed
and grafted on to the context of love.

In the first section, however, the persuasion to love is mildly stated. The poet says: “My
vegetable love should grow Vaster than empire and more slow.”
That Marvell understands that his love for the ministers is not merely of vegetative nature
but also of a spiritual one is indeed significant for the proper understanding of the poem.
This is a love, which is cosmic and eternally oriented, as Donne had also stated in The
Extasie:

“Love’s mysteries in souls do grow But yet the body is his book.” Donne is here speaking
of Platonic love in its purest definition, that is, a graduation from the bodily to the
universal, and from particular to general love.
The deliberate emphasis on the absurd statements in the first stanza is countered by the
opening couplets in the second:

“But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” Not only this
Time’s devastating march is conceived in ghastly terms in an almost existential
annihilation: “And yonder all before us Deserts of vast Eternitie.”
It is this counterargument, which provides the emotional basis for the poet’s attitude to
love in the poem. The conclusions of things are, after all, negative and negating—the
termination of life in the grave offers no hope. From the perspective of the non-believer,
the decision to make best possible use of time is merely hedonistic. But Marvell’s
intention is fraught with more philosophical suggestiveness. We are reminded of Donne’s
remark that there is no working in dark night, meaning that spiritual self is helpless
without the body and it is only on our existence as flesh and blood that we can exert our
will power.
The proposition that the lovers should concentrate their energies “up into a ball”—is, in
fact, a reference to emblematic imagery common throughout the Renaissance. The fired
cannon ball symbolizes wisdom or prudence—wisdom, especially of the kind that
suggests a freedom from the operation of transient natural form. In pleading to the
mistress to be constituted as a ball and fired, the speaker hints at an usual sexual
consummation of their love, but this is not the only wisdom, which the lovers are capable
of achieving. Consistent with the Platonic form f the poem, it may be inferred that
Marvell is also thinking of harnessing the spiritual potential in order to give to it a
meaningful release at a proper time. According to some Neo-Platonists, the mode of
conserving and employing one’s energies in consonance with the forces of permanence
and eternity in nature was one of the primary awareness of wise man. Marvell embodies
this idea in the last image and significantly the lovers seem to have defied time:

“Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still yet we will make him run.”
The defiance is not in the fact that the functional property of time has been retarded, but
in the fact, which is more insulting to time’s capacity. The lovers will make the sun run
with more speed, but the passage of days achieved by this will not have its effect on the
permanence, which the prudent lovers will have in their possession.

TO HIS COY MISTRESS

(Explanations.)

“Had we but World enough…I love at lower rate.” [Lines 11-20]

These lines occur in the opening stanza of Andrew Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress
and form part of the speaker’s monologue aimed at rationalizing his call for the
consummation of their love.

The speaker tells his beloved what he would have done if he had at his disposal as much
time as he wants. If he were granted a long enough period of time, he would not have
been in such a hurry to consummate his love. He would then have all the time in the
world to walk by the side of Humber and he would not mind her finding rubies by the
side of the Ganges. Indulging in some more bold hyperboles, the speaker says that their
love affairs would then have gone back in time to the years before the Great Flood
described in the Bible. The lady herself—who is obviously not willing to oblige the
lover-- could then have gone on refusing him endlessly or at least until the conversion of
the Jews, which is said to be an impossible event. The speaker thinks that if they were so
rich in time, they would have all the scope necessary for the slow growth of love. He
would have time to devote an age at least to every part of the lady’s beauty. His love
would grow like a vegetable. The word ‘vegetable’ is a genuine metaphor, not a generic
term here. Vegetables in Marvell’s time included trees and all the rest of the plant-life.
Like ideal love, the first property of vegetables was growth. If the speaker had thirty
thousand years and more, his vegetable love would have grown vaster than empires—
though like some trees slower than empire to grow.

These lines present one of the most famous metaphysical conceit, especially in the
bewildering conjunction of vegetable and love. The question naturally arises what exactly
Marvell means by vegetable love. J. V. Cunningham has shown that ‘vegetable’ in
Marvell’s time was also a philosophical term. Its context was the doctrine of the three
souls: the rational which in man subsumes the other two; the sensitive which men and
animals have in common; and finally the lowest of the three vegetable soul, which is the
only one that plants possess, and which is the principle of generation and corruption or
augmentation and decay. The speaker means, therefore, that his love, denied the exercise
of the senses but possessing the power of augmentation, will increase vaster than
empires. It is an intellectual image and hence no image at all but a conceit. That Marvell
understands that his love for the ministers is not merely of vegetative nature but also of a
spiritual one is indeed significant for the proper understanding of the poem. This is a
love, which is cosmic and eternally oriented, as Donne had also stated in The Extasie:
“Love’s mysteries in souls do grow

But yet the body is his book.”

Donne is here speaking of Platonic love in its purest definition, that is, a graduation from
the bodily to the universal, and from particular to general love.

2. II nd stanza:

“But at my back…do there embrace.” [Lines 21—31]

These lines occur in the second section of Andrew Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress
and form part of the speaker’s monologue aimed at rationalizing his call for the
consummation of their love.

In these lines the speaker employs a grim humour to make his mistress aware of the
absurdity of her objection to the consummation of their love. He reminds the mistress that
they do not have all the time in the world at their disposal. In fact, if they had an
abundance of time, the speaker could have waited for thousand of years praising
meanwhile each part of the lady’s uniquely beautiful figure. But unfortunately, time
relentlessly marches on. It is like a swift chariot driving human beings forward into the
bleak and desolate land of death. The grave is the ultimate destiny of every mortal and it
is also a denial of all human passion and warmth. Coy ladies, even if they consent to
spend a few moments with their lovers, usually look for a quiet, solitary and private
place. The lover brutally reminds his mistress that nothing could be more solitary and
private than the grave; but unfortunately the grave is not a place where lovers can reach a
consummation of their passion. On the contrary the grave symbolizes the decay of all
human flesh. The lady who is so anxious to preserve her virginity from the advance of the
lover, must remember that after death the same prized virginity will be a prey to the
worms of the earth.

It may be said that Marvell’s image of the advance of time in “winged chariot” is almost
is felt almost in existential terms. This forms the counterargument provides the emotional
basis for the poet’s attitude to love in the poem. The conclusions of things are, after all,
negative and negating—the termination of life in the grave offers no hope. From the
perspective of the non-believer, the decision to make best possible use of time is merely
hedonistic. But Marvell’s intention is fraught with more philosophical suggestiveness. We
are reminded of Donne’s remark that there is no working in dark night, meaning that
spiritual self is helpless without the body and it is only on our existence as flesh and
blood that we can exert our will power.

3.Final Section:

“Now therefore while the youthful …Stand still, yet we can make him run.”

[lines 32—40]
These lines occur in the final section of Andrew Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress and
form part of the speaker’s triumphant conclusion to his monologue aimed at rationalizing
his call for the consummation of their love. [These are the closing lines of Andrew
Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress and bring the speaker’s monologue, aimed at
rationalizing his call for the consummation of their love, to a triumphant conclusion. ]

Throughout the poem the speaker has repeatedly reminded the mistress that they have
little time at their disposal, that they are, in fact, relentlessly being pursued by their
enemy, Time, and that it would be a shocking waste if the she goes on resisting the call
for consummation of their love. Now he asks her to prepare for the moment when their
love will triumph over time. He says that they should form their strength together and add
to it her sweetness so that they can make themselves into a formidable force. If they can
do that they will be able to beat time. He then uses a powerful image to convey the idea
of the lover’s passing through all obstacles put in their way by Time. The image he uses
to say that is that of a ball crushing through the gates of a besieged city. This should be
viewed in relation the next image of the “fired cannon ball”, which symbolizes wisdom
or prudence—wisdom, especially of the kind that suggests a freedom from the operation
of transient natural form. In pleading to the mistress to be constituted as a ball and fired,
the speaker hints at an usual sexual consummation of their love, but this is not the only
wisdom, which the lovers are capable of achieving. Consistent with the Platonic form f
the poem, it may be inferred that Marvell is also thinking of harnessing the spiritual
potential in order to give to it a meaningful release at a proper time. Marvell embodies
this idea in the last image and significantly the lovers seem to have defied time. The
defiance is not in the fact that the functional property of time has been retarded, but in the
fact, which is more insulting to time’s capacity. The lovers will make the sun run with
more speed, but the passage of days achieved by this will not have its effect on the
permanence, which the prudent lovers will have in their possession.

The proposition that the lovers should concentrate their energies “up into a ball”—is, in
fact, a reference to emblematic imagery common throughout the Renaissance. According
to some Neo-Platonists, the mode of conserving and employing one’s energies in
consonance with the forces of permanence and eternity in nature was one of the primary
awareness of wise man. Marvell here subtly uses the conceits in order to convey a
philosophical understanding of the concept of love. This is a love, which is cosmic and
eternally oriented, as Donne had also stated in The Extasie:

“Love’s mysteries in souls do grow

But yet the body is his book.”

Marvell, like Donne before him, is here speaking of Platonic love in its purest definition,
that is, a graduation from the bodily to the universal, and from particular to general love.
“Had but world enough, and time…”

What would the speaker do?


Ans: In Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress, the speaker argues that had they had
enough time and space at their disposal, they could wait for each other. The lady could
look for rubies by the river Ganges in India and the lover could sit and complain by the
river Humber in England. He would have loved her from before the great biblical Deluge
and she could go on refusing him until the conversion of the Jews.
How does the speaker propose to praise the beauty of the beloved, had he had enough
time and space?

Ans: In Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress, the speaker argues that had they had
enough time and space at their disposal, he would not insist on the consummation of their
love. Instead, he would spend a hundred year in praising her eyes and gazing on her
forehead. He would allot two hundred years for adoring each of her breasts, and thirty
thousand years for the rest of the body. He declares that he would devote at least an age
for each of her organs. In that case, he would expect her to reveal her heart just before the
end of the world.
Comment on the expression “vegetable love”.

Ans: In Marvell’s time the phrase “vegetable love” was a philosophical term. Its context
was the Aristotelian doctrine of the three souls: the rational which in man subsumes the
other two; the sensitive which men and animals have in common; and finally the lowest
of the three vegetable souls, which is the only one that plants possess, and which is the
principle of generation and corruption or augmentation and decay. Like ideal love, the
first property of vegetables was growth. The speaker means that, if he had thirty thousand
years and more, his love, denied the exercise of the senses but possessing the power of
augmentation, would increase vaster than empires—though like some trees slower than
empire to grow.
“…I would

Love you ten years before the Flood”

What incident does the speaker refer to here?

Ans: The speaker here refers to the Great Deluge that destroyed the world soon after the
Creation and the Fall of man.
Why does the speaker use the expression “till the conversion of the Jews”?

Ans: It was a popular conception that the Jews would never be converted into
Christianity. The speaker in Marvell’s poem refers mockingly to the popular notion of the
impossibility of the Jews into Christianity as an impossible event. But it should be
remembered that it was believed also that the Jews would be converted in 1656.
What is meant by the phrase “iron gates of life”?

Ans: Marvell has used the phrase philosophically. He follows the Neo-Platonic notion
which sees the body as the prison of life. In order to realize the true nature of life and
love, one must rise above the condition dictated by the physicality of human beings.
Marvell implies, following Plato, that in order to reach and realize the spiritual one must
proceed through the body.
“Let us roll all our strength, and all,

Our sweetness, up into one Ball.”

What does the poet mean by the lines?

Ans: The ‘Ball’ here refers to the cannon-ball, which was used for crushing through the
gates of a besieged city. During the Renaissance period the “fired cannon ball”
symbolized wisdom or prudence—wisdom, especially of the kind that suggests a freedom
from the operation of transient natural form. But for that freedom, concentration of
energy, that is, spiritual energy, like the gun powder in the case of a cannon ball, is
necessary in order to go outside the influence of operation of time. In pleading to the
mistress to be constituted as a ball and fired, the speaker hints on the surface at a usual
sexual consummation of their love, but this really implies the harnessing of spiritual
energy in order to defy time.
“Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.” What is the meaning of these lines?

Ans: Here the poet has transformed the conjoined ‘Ball’ into the sun of their own.
Literally it means what remains of his and his beloved’s time in this world. Consistent
with the Platonic form of the poem, Marvell is thinking of harnessing the spiritual
potential in order to give to it a meaningful release at a proper time. The defiance is not in
the fact that the functional property of time has been retarded, but in the fact, which is
more insulting to time’s capacity. The lovers will make the sun run with more speed, but
the passage of days achieved by this will not have its effect on the permanence, which the
prudent lovers will have in their possession.