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Vocabulary: carpe diem, cavalier, Sons of Ben, epicureanism

Andrew Marvell: "To His Coy Mistress": What does the word mistress mean in the 17th century and how is it different from the modern meaning of the word? What does the word coy suggest about the speaker's mistress? In line 1, what does the word "had" mean? What does that meaning suggest about the entire first stanza--i.e., are the scenarios the speaker describes realistic according to his argument?

  • If the speaker had enough world and enough time, what are some of the things he would do to woo his mistress?
  • The speaker contrasts the way his lover would spend time hunting for rubies by the Ganges River, a far away distant location, while he would remain at the Umber River, the stream nearby and close to his hometown. What is the intended effect of this contrast?
  • How long would the speaker love the woman and how long could she refuse his advances, according to the speaker?
  • How long would the speaker spend admiring her eyes? How long would his foreplay last concerning her breasts? Concerning her "other parts"? What's the total of foreplay here?
  • In the second stanza, the text begins with what conjunction? What does that conjunction suggest about this stanza in contrast with the "what-if" discussion ("Had we...") that commences the first stanza?
  • What unusual feature does Time's chariot have attached to it--something most chariots don't come equipped with?
  • What does the future look like ahead of the two lovers according to the speaker when he looks "yonder all before us"? Why does the poet think of the future as consisting of this sort of terrain?
  • Where will the speaker's "echoing song" not be heard in the future?
  • According to the speaker, who or what shall sample the young girl's long-preserved virginity or body after she has died chastely?
  • According to the speaker, what will her "quaint" honor turn into once she is dead?
  • To drive the point home in the last two lines of the second stanza, the speaker reminds the mistress that certain activities do not take place in graveyards. What activities does he refer to?
  • In the third stanza, the text begins with what adverb? How does this adverb provide emphasis or urgency to the rest of the stanza?
  • What sits on the young girl's skin like morning dew?
  • What transpires from every pore of the young girl's skin?
  • The speaker compares himself and the mistress to what "amorous" animals? Why does this seem like an unusual analogy? Why does it seem appropriate given his attitude about sex?
  • The poet uses an unusual verb to describe the extraction of pleasure. What verb does he use to describe this extraction?
  • What do the final lines mean, "Thus, though we cannot make our sun/ Stand still, yet we will make him run"?

A. Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime

B. 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 . . . .

C. 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.

D. 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-chapt power.


 

 

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