To His Coy Mistress

To His Coy Mistress

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.

"To His Coy Mistress" is a witty metaphysical poem written by the British author and statesman Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678) either during or just before the Interregnum. The poem is often considered one of the finest and most concise carpe diem arguments ever put in verse.

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.

Allusions in other works

Many authors have borrowed the phrase "World enough and time" from the poem's opening line to use in their book titles. The most famous is Robert Penn Warren's 1950 novel World Enough and Time: A Romantic Novel, about murder in early-1800s Kentucky. With variations, it has also been used for books on the history of physics (World Enough and Space-Time: Absolute versus Relational Theories of Space and Time), geopolitics (World Enough and Time: Successful Strategies for Resource Management), a science-fiction collection (Worlds Enough & Time: Five Tales of Speculative Fiction - Dan Simmons), and, of course, a biography (World Enough and Time: The Life of Andrew Marvell). Also in the field of science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote a Hugo-nominated short story whose title, "Vaster than Empires and More Slow", is a borrowing. "Ian Watson, in "The Forest as Metaphor for Mind: 'The Word for World is Forest' and 'Vaster Than Empires and More Slow'" (Science Fiction Studies, November 1975) notes the debt of the latter story to the works of a poet, Andrew Marvell, whose complex and allusive poems are of a later form of Pastoral to that which I shall refer, and, like Marvell, Le Guin's nature references are, as I want to argue, "pastoral" in a much more fundamental and interesting way than this simplistic use of the term..

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.

Peter S. Beagle has a novel titled A Fine and Private Place in which two ghosts fall in love. Ellery Queen used Fine and Private Place for one of his novels.

K. Eric Drexler has a book on Molecular Nanotechnology titled Engines of Creation. Drexler uses "Worlds Enough and Time" to entitle the section about life extension.

Gordon Downie uses the phrase "world enough and time" twice on his album, Coke Machine Glow, once on the song "Black Flies," and again on the spoken word piece, "Mystery."


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