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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
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.
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 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,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
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,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on the 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 amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
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
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

 

about the poet
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678). Born in Yorkshire and educated at Cambridge, Marvell received an inheritance upon his father’s death that allowed him to spend four years traveling the Continent...(more)

Exploring the patterns created by the formal elements of a poem—alliteration, image, tone, and metaphor, for example—helps us to understand more deeply the poem’s meaning and the nuances that enrich that meaning. This kind of formal close reading of the poem’s text is fundamental to any analysis of poetry.

To examine what roles various literary elements play in "To His Coy Mistress," click on one of the following choices. Interactive questions follow each analysis.

>Alliteration
>Diction
>Image
>Irony
>Metaphor
>Meter
>Simile
>Tone

For a demonstration of how you might pull together analyses of the elements of poetry in "To His Coy Mistress," see our sample essay (PDF).


Contributing author: Quentin Miller, Suffolk University

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