Yes, we might feel we "deserve this state" a little longer, and want to have more time on earth, like Marvell's mistress. But he acknowledges (insincerely) that although the lady deserves a long and wordy courtship, full of words about her beauty, eyes, wit, forehead, and honor, he is mortal. Because we all are mortal, and pass into dust, we do not have the luxury of NOT seizing the day. Marvell reminds his mistress that the "iron gates of life" await all human beings. Indeed, it is sobering to reflect that Marvell, the mistress he wrote the poem for long ago, Robert Herrick and the maidens he saw making much of time and all the people they knew and loved are now dead in churchyards, rotting in the ground. They are not embracing, but turning into "ashes" and "dust" rather than enjoying "lust" in Marvell's memorable words. Only the poems live on, urging the reader to do the same, and make the most of existence.
While it is easy to think of the only ways that Marvell and Herrick seized the day was enjoying the company of women, clearly they did not procrastinate about writing and learning about poetry, either. Because they acted on their inspiration, both the inspiration of their desire to write verse and to enjoy the pleasure of pretty women, they are immortal. Everyone has different desires -- some people are professionally ambitious, some people want to live more exciting and fulfilling lives. But their example and urge to enjoy life physically and intellectually is a lesson to us all. Although both men sought out pleasure, they also made the most of their craft with zest and passion.
Both Herrick's and Marvell's poems make frequent reference to the sun, showing that both men were keen observers and enjoyers of nature. The sun rises every day, and sets, and its progress is eternal, and time marches on eternally. The sun will one day die, but it will likely live longer than any human being on this earth today, even someone born today. Marvell says: "Thus, though we cannot make our sun/Stand...
It is possible that they may have regretted their chastity, and wanted to enjoy their sensuality but society forbade them sexuality before marriage. In that case, it is a pity that they did not or could not listen to the poet's words. But it is equally possible that they had different desires, invisible to the poet -- to see the world, to live more empowering lives outside of the control of powerful fathers, brothers, and later husbands or lovers. And that is the true sadness of the young women's fates, that they never had a chance to write poetry about their own desire to carpe diem. Even Marvell and Herrick did not carpe diem as much as they would have liked, as human life was shorter, and old age was more painful when they wrote their verse.
So, for Marvell's mistress and Herrick's maidens, and both poets, it is our responsibility and the responsibility of every human being to seize the day, to defy what society tells us is the right way to live, and to live for the moment in a meaningful way that brings us happiness in the here and now and for the next day, so the next morning is filled with even more carpe diem moments! Do not hit snooze, instead hit the ground running faster than Marvell's sun and Herrick's hourglass so their spirits live on!
Herrick, Robert. "To the Virgins, to Make much of Time." Tftrain.com. 7 May 2007. http://www.ftrain.com/poem_to_the_virgins.html
Marvell, Andrew. "To His Coy Mistress." Luminarium. 7 May 2007. http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm
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