From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
To His Coy Mistress

To His Coy Mistress


by Andrew Marvell

Stanza II (lines 21-32) Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 21-22

But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;

  • And, then, he gives her a huge gigantic "BUT." Ouch. You see, the speaker hears something behind him: "Time’s winged chariot," to be exact.
  • He’s being chased down by Time’s hybrid car!
  • He doesn’t say who’s driving, but we can assume it’s probably Time.

Lines 23-24

And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

  • Then, he seems to have a hallucination.
  • Look, he tells the mistress, look at all this sand. The future is just endless sand.
  • We’re all going to die.

Line 25

Thy beauty shall no more be found,

  • And you won’t look so pretty there, missy.

Lines 26

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

  • You sure won’t be able to hear my pretty song when you are in a "grave."

Lines 27-28

My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,

  • This next part is even creepier.
  • The speaker tells the mistress that, in the grave, worms will have sex with her.
  • According to the line, she’s a virgin.

Line 29

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

  • In the grave, her "quaint honor" will completely disintegrate.
  • According to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, "quaint" is a euphemism that means "vagina."
  • So, he’s telling her that she can’t take her virginity with her into the afterlife, and making icky jokes about her vagina.

Line 30

And into ashes all my lust:

  • Next, he tells her that if they die without having sex together, his "lust" or desire, will all burn up, with nothing left but the "ashes."
  • Interestingly, he seems to imply that, if he can’t have sex with her, he won’t have sex at all.

Lines 31-32

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

  • He rubs in the whole thing by telling her that coffins are great: they have lots of privacy, but no hugging!

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...