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H. M. Margoliouth and Pierre Legouis (eds), The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, Vol. 1: Poems (Third Edition)
To his Coy Mistress
- 1Had we but World enough, and Time,
- 2This coyness Lady were no crime.
- 3We would sit down, and think which way
- 4To walk, and pass our long Loves Day.
- 5Thou by the Indian Ganges side
- 6Should'st Rubies find: I by the Tide
- 7Of Humber would complain. I would
- 8Love you ten years before the Flood:
- 9And you should if you please refuse
- 10Till the Conversion of the Jews.
- 11My vegetable Love should grow
- 12Vaster then Empires, and more slow.
- pg 2813An hundred years should go to praise
- 14Thine Eyes, and on thy Forehead Gaze.
- 15Two hundred to adore each Breast:
- 16But thirty thousand to the rest.
- 17An Age at least to every part,
- 18And the last Age should show your Heart.
- 19For Lady you deserve this State;
- 20Nor would I love at lower rate.
- 21 But at my back I alwaies hear
- 22Times winged Charriot hurrying near:
- 23And yonder all before us lye
- Critical Apparatus24Desarts of vast Eternity.
- 25Thy Beauty shall no more be found;
- 26Nor, in thy marble Vault, shall sound
- 27My ecchoing Song: then Worms shall try
- 28That long preserv'd Virginity:
- Critical Apparatus29And your quaint Honour turn to dust;
- 30And into ashes all my Lust.
- 31The Grave's a fine and private place,
- 32But none I think do there embrace.
- Critical Apparatus33 Now therefore, while the youthful hew
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus34Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
- 35And while thy willing Soul transpires
- 36At every pore with instant Fires,
- 37Now let us sport us while we may;
- Editor’s Note38And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
- 39Rather at once our Time devour,
- Editor’s Note40Than languish in his slow-chapt pow'r.
- 41Let us roll all our Strength, and all
- 42Our sweetness, up into one Ball:
- 43And tear our Pleasures with rough strife,
- Critical Apparatus44Thorough the Iron gates of Life.
- Editor’s Note45Thus, though we cannot make our Sun
- 46Stand still, yet we will make him run.
24 Desarts] Deserts T 2
29 dust Cooke: durst F
33 hew] glew T 2
34 dew Cooke T 2: glew F
l. 34. dew. In his second edition Margoliouth withdrew his tentative emendation, lew, meaning 'warmth', and 'returned to Cooke's commonplace but probably correct emendation'. But since then some critics have argued in favour of the retention of the Folio reading 'glew', which Margoliouth had discussed and rejected. Bernard Mellor, in his edition of Sir Francis Herbert's Egypts Favourite (1631), evolved a theory of 'shared meaning', by which in the line 'This Ladies Glue and mine' the noun 'glew' can mean both 'glee' and 'glow'; and he extended the theory so as to include Marvell's image; but Professor Norman Davis tells me he does not believe in it, adding: 'I can do no better than accept "dew" while wondering how "glew" came to be printed.' Yet he agrees that 'glew' may be a dialectal form of 'glow', as suggested in 1927 by Henry Bradley to Margoliouth, whose objection, however, still stands: 'The word [glue] had its modern sense in [Marvell's] day and would therefore be inadmissible in this context.' G. de F. Lord is yet positive that 'glew', in the sense of 'glow', must stand, invoking a note by another philologist, the late Helge Kökeritz; but the underlying assumption is that Marvell chose a dialectal (Northern) form (being himself a Yorkshireman) because he wanted a rhyme to 'hew' (which he could not alter to 'how'), at the risk of appearing ridiculous to Southerners.
At the last minute Mr. Kelliher's article(see head-note) calls these conclusions in question. In the Haward MS. ll. 33–4 of Margoliouth's text read thus:
- Now then whil'st ye youthfull Glue
- Stickes on your Cheeke, like Morning Dew,
(note that l. 33 thus becomes trochaic). Now T 2 (see textual notes), while for the rest preserving the reading of the Folio, has the same rhymes, in the same order, as the Haward MS. This identity invites us to make Marvell responsible for 'glew', at least in an earlier version; for he may well not have felt happy about it.
ll. 38–44. Each of three separate and discontinuous images describes a supposed climax when the mistress is no longer coy. The second image is of a pomander, a union of strength and sweetness, male and female. In the third image the 'gates of life', where the sexual strife is waged, suggest the well-known narrow reach of the Danube. Yet the threefold image of amorous consummation is miraculously blended with a triumph over Time, the exact opposite of O lente, lente currite noctis equi. So in the final couplet (45–6), though there is probably a pun on 'sun' and 'son', the dominant theme of Time is fitly and finely concluded (Margoliouth, 2nd edn.). I am not convinced. Nor do I accept any of the numerous irreconcilable interpretations of those images that have been offered since. As regards 'gates', true it is that the word was used metaphorically for labia, e.g. by Lovelace (Davison), but there preceded by the epithet 'rosy'; 'Iron' makes the double entendre less than likely. While the conclusion of the poem clearly aims at sexual consummation I see no evidence that the images are themselves sexual. And I cannot even make up my mind whether the human couple and the 'Pleasures' stand, until these are 'torn', on the same or on different sides of the 'gates', or 'grates', the apparently easier reading of T 2, suggested by Tennyson independently. Lines 41–4 are missing in the Haward MS. Were they too obscure even for contemporaries? Or are they an afterthought of Marvell's?
l. 40. slow-chapt power: i.e. the power of his slowly-devouring jaws (Margoliouth). The epithet is derived from Suetonius, Life of Tiberius, xxi, reporting Augustus' dictum on his successor-elect: 'Miserum populum Romanum, qui sub tam lentis maxillis erit', possibly through Ben jonson, Sejanus, III. i. ll. 485–7: 'Betweene so slow jawes'.
44 gates] grates T 2
ll. 45–6. Cf. Lovelace, Dialogue—Lucasta, Alexis, ll. 29–30. 'So in each other if the pitying Sun Thus keep us fixt; nere may his Course be run!' Cf. also Cowley, Love and Life, ll. 17–18: '… for so the self same Sun, At once does slow and swiftly run'. But Donne had set the pattern by rhyming 'sun/run' seven times (Wall). Cf. Ps. 19: 4–5 (Hill, Kermode): the difference between David's sun, which runs of its own accord, and Marvell's, which will be compelled to run, strikes me more than the resemblance.