Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistressy Mistress




  1. “Had but world enough, and time…”
What would the speaker do?
Ans: In Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress, the speaker argues that had they had enough time and space at their disposal, they could wait for each other. The lady could look for rubies by the river Ganges in India and the lover could sit and complain by the river Humber in England. He would have loved her from before the great biblical Deluge and she could go on refusing him until the conversion of the Jews.
  1. How does the speaker propose to praise the beauty of the beloved, had he had enough time and space?
Ans: In Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress, the speaker argues that had they had enough time and space at their disposal, he would not insist on the consummation of their love. Instead, he would spend a hundred year in praising her eyes and gazing on her forehead. He would allot two hundred years for adoring each of her breasts, and thirty thousand years for the rest of the body. He declares that he would devote at least an age for each of her organs. In that case, he would expect her to reveal her heart just before the end of the world.
  1. Comment on the expression “vegetable love”.
Ans: In Marvell’s time the phrase “vegetable love” was a philosophical term. Its context was the Aristotelian doctrine of the three souls: the rational which in man subsumes the other two; the sensitive which men and animals have in common; and finally the lowest of the three vegetable souls, which is the only one that plants possess, and which is the principle of generation and corruption or augmentation and decay. Like ideal love, the first property of vegetables was growth. The speaker means that, if he had thirty thousand years and more, his love, denied the exercise of the senses but possessing the power of augmentation, would increase vaster than empires—though like some trees slower than empire to grow.
  1. “…I would
Love you ten years before the Flood”
What incident does the speaker refer to here?
Ans: The speaker here refers to the Great Deluge that destroyed the world soon after the Creation and the Fall of man.
  1. Why does the speaker use the expression “till the conversion of the Jews”?
Ans: It was a popular conception that the Jews would never be converted into Christianity. The speaker in Marvell’s poem refers mockingly to the popular notion of the impossibility of the Jews into Christianity as an impossible event. But it should be remembered that it was believed also that the Jews would be converted in 1656.
  1. What is meant by the phrase “iron gates of life”?
Ans: Marvell has used the phrase philosophically. He follows the Neo-Platonic notion which sees the body as the prison of life. In order to realize the true nature of life and love, one must rise above the condition dictated by the physicality of human beings. Marvell implies, following Plato, that in order to reach and realize the spiritual one must proceed through the body.
  1. “Let us roll all our strength, and all,
Our sweetness, up into one Ball.”
What does the poet mean by the lines?
Ans: The ‘Ball’ here refers to the cannon-ball, which was used for crushing through the gates of a besieged city. During the Renaissance period the “fired cannon ball” symbolized wisdom or prudence—wisdom, especially of the kind that suggests a freedom from the operation of transient natural form. But for that freedom, concentration of energy, that is, spiritual energy, like the gun powder in the case of a cannon ball, is necessary in order to go outside the influence of operation of time. In pleading to the mistress to be constituted as a ball and fired, the speaker hints on the surface at a usual sexual consummation of their love, but this really implies the harnessing of spiritual energy in order to defy time.
  1. “Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.” What is the meaning of these lines?
Ans: Here the poet has transformed the conjoined ‘Ball’ into the sun of their own. Literally it means what remains of his and his beloved’s time in this world. Consistent with the Platonic form of the poem, Marvell is thinking of harnessing the spiritual potential in order to give to it a meaningful release at a proper time. The defiance is not in the fact that the functional property of time has been retarded, but in the fact, which is more insulting to time’s capacity. The lovers will make the sun run with more speed, but the passage of days achieved by this will not have its effect on the permanence, which the prudent lovers will have in their possessio

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