|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 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 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.
Marvell probably wrote the poem prior to serving in Oliver Cromwell's government as a minister, and the poem was not published in his lifetime.
Written in the point of view of a gentleman, who is trying to persuade a woman to engage in sexual intercourse with him, although she is allegedly acting coy. He attempts to convince her that time is running out and they must seize the day (Carpe Diem a general translation). Its three sections are presented as if a logical argument: if... but... therefore.
The phrase "there will be time" occurs repeatedly in a section of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", and is often said to be an allusion to Marvell's poem. Prufrock says that there will be time "for the yellow smoke that slides along the street", time "to murder and create", and time "for a hundred indecisions ... Before the taking of a toast and tea". As Eliot's hero is, in fact, putting off romance and consummation, he is (falsely) answering Marvell's narrator. Eliot also alludes to the lines near the end of Marvell's poem, "Let us roll all our strength and all / Our sweetness up into one ball," with his lines, "To have squeezed the universe into a ball / To roll it toward some overwhelming question," as Prufrock questions whether or not such an act of daring would have been worth it. Eliot returns to Marvell in The Waste Land with the line "But at my back from time to time I hear / The sound of horns and motors" (Part III, line 196).
In the movie "25th Hour," the last verse of the poem is recited in an English class.
Most recently, Audrey Niffenegger's fiction novel The Time Traveler's Wife borrows heavily from Andrew Marvell's poem. The novel focuses on the main character Henry DeTamble, a reluctant time-traveler who proclaims his love for his wife Clare Abshire through the use of the phrase "World enough and time".
Archibald MacLeish's poem "You, Andrew Marvell", alludes to the passage of time and to the growth and decline of empires. In his poem, the speaker, lying on the ground at sunset, feels "the rising of the night". He visualizes sunset, moving from east to west geographically, overtaking the great civilizations of the past, and feels "how swift how secretly/The shadow of the night comes on."
In the Ernest Hemingway classic A Farewell to Arms, Lt. Henry recites the lines "But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot hurrying near" during a scene in chapter 23 where he and Catherine Barkley are eating in a cafe.