Yes, Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was one of the Metaphysical poets. Yes, he wrote this poem over three hundred years ago. Yes, it is basically a guy trying to talk his way into a girl’s knickers. Turns out this is not a new thing. Who’d have thunk? The ultimate theme of the poem is carpe diem (‘seize the day’), and the opening line, with its underlying humour, justifiably continues to be quoted today.
Had we but world enough and time,This coyness, lady, were no crime.We would sit down, and think which wayTo walk, and pass our long love’s day.Thou by the Indian Ganges’ sideShouldst rubies find; I by the tideOf Humber would complain. I wouldLove you ten years before the flood,And you should, if you please, refuseTill the conversion of the Jews.My vegetable love should growVaster than empires and more slow;An hundred years should go to praiseThine 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 hearTime’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;And yonder all before us lieDeserts of vast eternity.Thy beauty shall no more be found;Nor, in thy marble vault, shall soundMy echoing song; then worms shall tryThat 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..Now therefore, while the youthful hueSits on thy skin like morning dew,And while thy willing soul transpiresAt 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 devourThan languish in his slow-chapped power.Let us roll all our strength and allOur sweetness up into one ball,And tear our pleasures with rough strifeThrough the iron gates of life:Thus, though we cannot make our sunStand still, yet we will make him run.