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.
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.
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.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
- And you won’t look so pretty there, missy.
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
- You sure won’t be able to hear my pretty song when you are in a "grave."
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.
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.
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.
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!