Andrew Marvell said it best back in the 17th century. I have never come across anything written before or since that more convincingly and beautifully expresses the compelling reasons to indulge in passion.
Alan, my ex-husband, the scientist, would never have come across this poem before meeting me. I wouldn’t have expected him to know it. But bless his romantic heart, he learned To His Coy Mistress, and would, when the moment was ripe, pull out a few select lines. Always with the desired results.
But my own romantic heart hungered for more. I wanted what he could never have done. I longed for the man who, in a moment with stillness hanging heavily around us, would recite, unbidden, those lines for me.
I teased Alan that I would give myself, body and soul, to the man who did that.
Then it happened to the Vixen Divorcee. Under a full moon on a gentle night in early autumn, Chet (Remember him from Addled By a Drug?) recited:
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 winged 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
Through the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
The beauty and poignancy of those lines still make me shiver, and I’ve known them since college in the 70’s:
“But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;….”
“…The grave’s a fine and private place/But none I think do there embrace….”
“…And while thy willing soul transpires/At every pore with instant fires,/Now let us sport us while we may;…”
Who could resist them? Who could be anything but a quivering pool of willing flesh before those words, that rhyme, the flow of language?
As it turns out, I could. That’s who.
Of course he kissed me. That’s the point, right? Well, the first step in getting to the point.
There was no second step that night.
He was the wrong man. The setting, the words, my lifelong wish, all laid out for exactly the wrong guy.
I’m still waiting for the right man to make my sun run.
Here’s a dramatization of To His Coy Mistress by Damien Lewis. Better than Chet’s. However, he’s left out the last stanza.