Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  357. To His Coy Mistress

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Andrew Marvell. 1621–1678

357. 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 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. 
GLOSS:  slow-chapt] slow-jawed, slowly devouring.