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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 wingéd 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-chapped power.

Let us roll all our strength, and all

Our sweetness, up into one ball;

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Through the iron gates of life.

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) was a member of Parliament and an important diplomat both in Oliver Cromwell’s government and during the Restoration of the throne in the reign of Charles II. Because Marvell was fearful that the opinions expressed in his verse could cost him his life, he chose not to publish much of it during his lifetime. Thus his reputation as an important poet flourished only after his death. “To His Coy Mistress,” a poem of salacious wit and majestic skill, is considered among his greatest poems and is certainly among his most famous.

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