Friday, February 14, 2014

To His Coy Mistress/smoke 'em if ya got 'em

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
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 wing├Ęd 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 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 hue
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 amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt 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.

Andrew Marvell (1621 - 1678)

A very romantic, sexy, bawdy traipse, this poem is, and yet a slyly crafted revelation of the author's  urgency. Marvell was one of the Metaphysical poets and a contemporary of John Donne (Death Be Not Proud) who had a few pulse-quickening verses of his own. It's a bit insulting, really. Was the poet THAT charming to be around? Maybe he had malodorous breath and the lady was merely being polite rather than coy? We shall never know, since Marvell wrote the history and His Coy Mistress could have been, oh, anyone, or may never have been at all.

When first I read To His Coy Mistress some weeks ago, the verse was a delight and an absolute revelation.  That one can couch such abject sensuality and rude impatience in such polite and wheedling tone is a marvel, indeed. Did I say pulse-quickening?  Brainy is the ultimate hotness.

Where was I?  Oh.  Yes.

When I first read this I chuckled several times as I made my way through the text.  Brilliantly structured and layered with manifold meaning, this confect is the verbal manifestation of a croissant, I think.  This also called to mind (if memory serves, but I just had a glass of champagne, so don't hold me to it!) the verse of a 19th century poet - either Baudelaire or Verlaine - in which he chides the object of his lust for hanging onto her virginity(that old thing!), as she'll soon be worm food in the grave and may as well not have a bothersome thing like virtue hanging about.  I find that approach crass and laughable, though I do see the point.

By brooks too broad for leaping
    Those light-foot boys are laid
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
    In fields where roses fade
A. E. Houseman

It's all just repetition on a theme, as man is a giddy thing.  Love, though, is still worth having, in its many forms, and not just of the romantic stripe.  Love for dear ones and darling pets is one of the few profound and worthwhile things a person can do.

I hope you've had a lovely Valentine's Day and have spent at least a tiny portion of it in celebration of people and pets you love.  I took a nice walk for a couple of miles with my sweetheart, and it was a clear, bright night, and the Pleiades were in view. Maybe that's why the poetry Muse descended.

May you have the sweetest of dreams.



Old NFO said...

Well done Phlegmmy! :-)

Evyl Robot Michael said...

Very lovely piece.

"We shall never know, since Marvell wrote the history and His Coy Mistress could have been, oh, anyone, or may never have been at all."

LOL! This reminds me of a romantic poem I wrote for a high school assignment. The students were called to read our poems aloud. Mine elicited many hoots and the like along with questions of "who is she?" When in fact, I wasn't dating anyone, nor did I have my eye on anyone at the time. I still have a hard copy of that one around here somewhere. Of course, the assigned tome of a goofy teenager doesn't hold a candle to Marvell's work, and I stopped writing poetry long ago.

charlotte g said...

Best wishes to you. I hope you keep some of my folk or others like them alive or at least in comfort. Best wishes on your studies.