Feb. 13, 2005

To His Coy Mistress

by Andrew Marvell

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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 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-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 Belgian writer Georges Simenon, born in Liège (1903). He's known as the master of the crime novel, and he's famous for creating the character Inspector Maigret, a police detective in Paris. Simenon wrote 84 Maigret books, and over one thousand other short stories and articles, as well as other non-Maigret books.

Simenon was born a little after one o'clock in the morning on the 13th, but his Flemish mother, Henriette, was very superstitious. She had the birth date officially recorded as February 12th because she thought the 13th was bad luck.

Simenon moved to Paris in 1922, and it was there that he started writing what he called "my pulp fiction." He wrote at a rate of about eight pages a day. These were everything from stories about spies to sappy romances for girls. He published these under the pseudonym Georges Sim, or under one of his other 16 pseudonyms. Simenon said, "I adore life but I don't fear death. I just prefer to die as late as possible."

It's the birthday of religion historian and nonfiction writer Elaine H(iesey) Pagels, born in Palo Alto, California (1943). She's known for writing books about religious theory in layman's terms, such as her book The Gnostic Gospels (1979). This book was the first account written for a general reader about the Nag Hammadi scrolls, which were discovered in a cave in Egypt in 1945. Pagels had to learn a whole new language, Coptic, to translate the scrolls. The book sold almost 400,000 copies, and it won her a National Book Critics Circle Award and a National Book Award.

The Gnostic Gospels begins "'Jesus Christ rose from the grave.' With this proclamation, the Christian church began. This may be the fundamental element of Christian faith; certainly it is the most radical."

Elaine Pagels was married to theoretical physicist Heinz Pagels, but he was killed in 1988 when he fell off of Pyramid Peak in Colorado while climbing. Their son had died a year and a half earlier, and their deaths made her think about how people deal with loss and tragedy, and these thoughts led her to write The Origin of Satan (1995).

Pagels wasn't raised religious. She joined an evangelical church on her own when she was 13 partly out of curiosity, and partly because she was attracted to "the emotional power of the music." She never felt right in that group, and so she left a year or so later.

She got into religious studies after learning Ancient Greek in college. She says, "I read Homer and Pindar, all these remarkable stories about gods and goddesses. And I was fascinated by how the story at the heart of Christianity became the symbolic focus of the lives of millions of people over the course of a few thousand years. I felt it was a puzzle I had to work on."

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