Category Archives: Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

Read Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress and you’ll see that he’s at home among the Cavaliers; read The Coronet and you’ll realize he’s at home among the most religious of poets.

A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body

O, who shall from this dungeon raise
A soul enslaved so many ways?
With bolts of bones, that fettered stands
In feet, and manacled in hands.
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear;
A soul hung up, as ‘twere, in chains
Of nerves, and arteries, and veins;
Tortured, besides each other part,
In a vain head and double heart.

O, who shall me deliver whole
From bonds of this tyrannic soul?
What, stretched upright, impales me so
That mine own precipice I go;
And warms and moves this needless frame
(A fever could but do the same)
And wanting where its spite to try,
Has made me live to let me die.
A body that could never rest
Since this ill spirit it possessed.

What magic could me thus confine
Within another’s grief to pine?
Where, whatsoever it complain,
I feel, that cannot feel, the pain;
And all my care itself employs,
That to preserve which me destroys;
Constrained not only to endure
Diseases, but, what’s worse, the cure;
And, ready oft the port to gain,
Am shipwrecked into health again.

But physic yet could never reach
The maladies thou me dost teach:
Whom first the cramp of hope does tear,
And then the palsy shakes of fear;
The pestilence of love does heat,
Or hatred’s hidden ulcer eat;
Joy’s cheerful madness does perplex,
Or sorrow’s other madness vex;
Which knowledge forces me to know,
And memory will not forego.
What but a soul could have the wit
To build me up for sin so fit?
So architects do square and hew
Green trees that in the forest grew.

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 love’s long 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 honor 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.

The Coronet

When for the thorns with which I long, too long,
.      With many a piercing wound,
.      My Savior’s head have crowned,
I seek with garlands to address that wrong,
.      Through every garden, every mead,
I gather flowers (my fruits are only flowers),
.      Dismantling all the fragrant towers
That once adorned my shepherdess’s head:
And now, when I have summed up all my store,
.      Thinking (so I myself deceive)
.      So rich a chaplet thence to weave
As never yet the King of Glory wore,
.      Alas! I find the serpent old,
.      That, twining in his speckled breast,
.      About the flowers disguised does fold
.      With wreathes of fame and interest.
Ah, foolish man, that wouldst debase with them,
And mortal glory, heaven’s diadem!
But thou who only couldst the serpent tame,
Either his slippery knots at once untie,
And disentangle all his winding snare,
Or shatter too with him my curious frame,
And let these whither, so that he may die,
Thou set with skill and chosen out with care;
That they, while thou on both their spoils dost tread,
May crown thy feet, that could not crown thy head.