To His Coy Mistress

To His Coy Mistress

"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." [ [ "Ursula Le Guin and Pastoral Mode"] ; [] "Note allusion of Andrew Marvell's poem, "To His Coy Mistress," the source of the title to Le Guin's "Vaster than Empires.""] .

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.Fact|date=February 2007 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". [Citation
first = Audrey | last = Niffenegger
author-link = Audrey Niffenegger
title = The Time Traveler's Wife
place = San Francisco
publisher = MacAdam/Cage
year = 2003
pages = 499
isbn = 1931561648

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."


External links

* [ To His Coy Mistress: A Study Guide With an Annotated Copy of the Poem]
* [ "His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell"] by A. D. Hope – The object of Marvell's attentions replies, a breast-and-a-halfsworth later.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • 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… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Coy — COY, sigle composé des trois lettres C, O et Y, peut faire référence à : Coolawanyah en Australie Occidentale, selon la liste des codes AITA des aéroports, Coy peut faire référence à : Personnes: Bernard Paul Coy (1901–1946), un… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • COY — COY, sigle composé des trois lettres C, O et Y, peut faire référence à : Coolawanyah en Australie Occidentale, selon la liste des codes AITA des aéroports, Coy peut faire référence à : Personnes: Bernard Paul Coy (1901–1946), un… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marvell, Andrew — born March 31, 1621, Winestead, Yorkshire, Eng. died Aug. 18, 1678, London English poet and politician. He was employed as a tutor, including to Oliver Cromwell s ward, before becoming an assistant to John Milton in the foreign office in 1657.… …   Universalium

  • Carpe diem — is a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace (See ), and which occurs many times in modern English language popular culture.The phrase non collige virgo rosas ( gather, girl, the roses ) appears at the end of the poem De rosis nascentibus… …   Wikipedia

  • The Quince Tree Press — is the imprint established in 1966 by J. L. Carr to publish his maps, pocket books and novels. Carr, J.L. (1987) An inventory and a history of the Quince Tree Press to mark its 21st year and the sale of its 500,000th small book. August 1987.… …   Wikipedia

  • Andrew Marvell — (31 March 1621 ndash; 16 August 1678) was an English metaphysical poet, and the son of a Church of England clergyman (also named Andrew Marvell). As a metaphysical poet, he is associated with John Donne and George Herbert. He was a colleague and… …   Wikipedia

  • Andrew Marvell — noun English poet (1621 1678) • Syn: ↑Marvell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑poet * * * Andrew Marvell [Andrew Marvell] …   Useful english dictionary

  • The Case of the Gilded Fly — Cover of a 1980 Avon paperback edition The Case of the Gilded Fly is a detective novel by Edmund Crispin first published in 1944. Crispin s debut novel, it contains the first appearance of eccentric amateur sleuth Gervase Fen, who is Professor of …   Wikipedia

  • Daniel Steven Crafts — (born September 22, 1949, in Detroit, Michigan) is an American composer. Contents 1 Composition Style 2 List of works 2.1 Operas …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.