Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 21 (Andrew Marvell)

Complete Poems
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Marvell, Andrew
The Complete Poems

Purchased at the Fordham University Bookstore for a course on 17th Century Poetry. I have owned this longer than most other books in the collection.

I don't remember reading Marvell in college, but I do remember reading him afterwards. I don't recall the exact occasion, possibly going home for a holiday visit, but I took a train from NYC to DC and borught along this book. I read all of Marvell's poems on the train between the two cities and again on the way back. I think I even memorized "To HIs Coy Mistress," though I have since forgotten most of it.

The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

I miss that train ride.

It used to take about 3.5 hours to get from Penn Station to Union Station, then another hour to take the Metro out to the last stop on the Orange line, Vienna, where my father would pick me up and drive me the mile or so to our house. 3.5 hours on a train is a perfect amount of time to get some reading done.

When I first moved to Buffalo, I used to train to NYC, but found that 8 hours was just too long. I would always start to feel agitated and unable to concentrate after 4 or 5 hours. Eventually, air travel between Buffalo and NY got so cheap that there wasn't any longer an argument to be made for train travel.

Someone, I think Peter Culley, posted a link to Facebook from Bookforum about a new biography of Marvell. Here's the link if you want to read it:

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
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
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

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