Thou by the Indian Ganges' side. Should'st Rubies find: I by the Tide Of Humber would complain.

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Question

Reference to context

Thou by the Indian Ganges' side.

Should'st Rubies find: I by the Tide

Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the Flood;

And you should if you please refuse

Till the Conversion of the Jews.

June'2018

 

Answer

Reference

The above lines are taken from the poem ‘To Coy His Mistress’ written and composed by Andrew Marvell.

Context

Andrew Marvell is an English poet, politician, and satirist who belong to a group commonly known as the "Metaphysical Poets”. His poems are famous for the surprising use of language to explore BIG questions about love, sex, the earth, the universe, and the divine. Marvell probably wrote "To His Coy Mistress" between 1650 and 1652. It was first published in 1681 (by his housekeeper!) several years after his death.

"To His Coy Mistress" is a carpe diem poem: following the example of Roman poets like Horace, it urges a young woman to enjoy the pleasures of life before death claims her. Indeed, the poem is an attempt to seduce the titular "coy mistress." In the process, however, the speaker dwells with grotesque intensity on death itself. Death seems to take over the poem, displacing the speaker's erotic energy and filling the poem with dread.


Explanation

In these lines the poet is telling his mistress that her playing hard to get would not be a problem if they had infinite time. He proceeds to detail the lavish ways he would slowly court her if he could. They could be a world apart: she in India, near the Ganges River, and he in England, near the Humber River. He would love her 10 years before the biblical flood, described in the book of Genesis. She could tell him no until the conversion of the Jews.


Analysis

This poem is a dramatic monologue. The silent listener (the mistress) is addressed but we do not hear her voice. There is the sense that we, the reader, are eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. The speaker is anonymous and we are given no information about him or his mistress. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter. The regular “sing-song” rhythm and rhyme creates a “comic” feel which contrasts strongly with the underlying theme of life and death.

Marvell uses a conditional statement *If… then…. If time did not fly, then we could take all the time in the world to consummate our relationship. The poem is repeatedly concerned with time and space. There is a huge distance (space) between the Indian Ganges and the Humber in England. This distance will not affect the speaker’s love for his mistress. The speaker announces that his mistress might “refuse / ‘Till the conversion of the Jews”—which, in the Christian theology of Marvell’s time, was expected to occur during the biblical Last Days. In this ideal world, the speaker feels no urgency to consummate their relationship.


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