(1621-1678) is a "carpe diem" ("Seize the day") poem. Its theme is
that life is short and time is passing. The persona takes the loved
one to task for not yielding to his persuasions to make love to him.
It is another poem about power. The woman is holding power over the
man by refusing his entreaties. This kind of poem was very popular in
Marvel's time. It does not necessarily describe a real situation.
In the first part of the poem, the persona complains that if time were
in plentiful supply, the woman's modest shyness would not be wrong.
She could go to the River Ganges in India, a very exotic place, and
celebrate her virginity ("rubies" are symbols of preserved virginity),
while he would lament her loss beside the Humber, a far less
attractive place. Marvell came from Hull, which stands on the Humber,
so would know it well. In Hull, outside the Church of the Holy
Trinity, is a statue of Marvell with these lines from the poem written
on its plinth.
It was believed that "the flood" would never happen again, because,
after Noah's Flood, God promised that there would be no more and put a
rainbow in the sky as a reminder of this (See Genesis c. 9, v. 12) and
the Conversion of the Jews was expected to happen at the end of the
world, so in saying that he would love her and she would refuse before
these things came to pass, he is saying they would go on forever.
... middle of paper ...
...e her beauty still has
its youthful softness and her passion its "instant fires" (which
contrast with the "ashes" of his burnt out lust in the last section),
enjoy their love to the full, hunting down time to "devour" and take
pleasure in it, rather than succumbing to its slow but inevitable
erosion of their being. The image of the birds of prey continues as
they "tear our pleasures" the flesh of the prey they have hunted, even
s they pass through the "iron gates" of life. Time is now seen as
their prison, but one which they can defy by embracing the pleasure of
one another. They cannot make time still, as Joshua discovered in the
Book of Judges (c. 10, v 12-13) and Zeus discovered in Greek
mythology, but they can ensure they enjoy its passing and "make him
run". They must, as we said at the beginning, "Seize the day".
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