Saturday

Jan. 10, 2004

To His Coy Mistress

by Andrew Marvell

SATURDAY, 10 JANUARY, 2004
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Poem: "To His Coy Mistress," by Andrew Marvell.

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 preserv'd 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 am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd 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.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Philip Levine, born in Detroit, Michigan (1928). He's the author of sixteen books of poetry, most recently The Mercy (1998). He once said to his writing students, "Why be yourself if you can be somebody interesting? Imagine a life. Imagine yourself being something other than what you are."

It's the birthday of historian and biographer Dumas Malone, born in Coldwater, Mississippi (1892). He is best known for his six-volume work, Jefferson and His Time, which came out between 1948 and 1981. In 1975, when he was 83 years old, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the biography, which was recently selected by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century.

It's the birthday of poet Robinson Jeffers, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1887). He studied both medicine and forestry, but an inheritance from an uncle allowed him to pursue his real ambition, poetry. He lived in Carmel, California, where he built a granite house and observation tower with a view of the ocean and the mountains.

On this day in 1776, British political theorist Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called Common Sense, arguing for American independence. It sold over five hundred thousand copies, and had a great influence on the Declaration of Independence. In it, he wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls."

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