Monday, December 27, 2010

A very poetic to and fro

Since this comes right on the heels of my previous post which had snatches of poetry, I wud have preferred to space it more. But I think it's particularly marvellous since the first poem I wanted to post here, is one I'd read about in The Garden of Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. The first stanza from this poem I'd scribbled onto my now-deceased scrapbook. It had the quite wistful idea of not having enuff time in this world to make love last long. It has a man admonishing his lover for being too 'coy'. Now that isn't a particularly appealing idea in itself but the poem that results is quite lovely.

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst 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.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

- Andrew Marvell

But remarkably, this poem isn't the point of this post. I was listening to this poem read by SV, one of my favourite channels on youtube when I found that he'd posted a reply to this poem.

Now this reply was by another poet, A. D. Hope. I had never heard of him before. And I found he was this amazing satirical Australian poet who published a poem called "From His Mistress to Mr. Marvell" in a book charmingly called The Book of Answers. What I found most intriguing about this awesome poet I'd never heard of, was that, according to his wikipedia page, he was a polymath and largely self-taught.

This particular poem gives a sharp voice to Mr. Marvell's coy mistress, and its feminist slant is unmistakable. And since I loved the idea of a poetic repartee, especially one so cleverly written, I'm putting it here.

His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell

Since you have world enough and time
Sir, to admonish me in rhyme,
Pray Mr Marvell, can it be
You think to have persuaded me?
Then let me say: you want the art
To woo, much less to win my heart.
The verse was splendid, all admit,
And, sir, you have a pretty wit.
All that indeed your poem lacked
Was logic, modesty, and tact,
Slight faults and ones to which I own,
Your sex is generally prone;
But though you lose your labour, I
Shall not refuse you a reply:

First, for the language you employ:
A term I deprecate is "coy";
The ill-bred miss, the bird-brained Jill,
May simper and be coy at will;
A lady, sir, as you will find,
Keeps counsel, or she speaks her mind,
Means what she says and scorns to fence
And palter with feigned innocence.

The ambiguous "mistress" next you set
Beside this graceless epithet.
"Coy mistress", sir? Who gave you leave
To wear my heart upon your sleeve?
Or to imply, as sure you do,
I had no other choice than you
And must remain upon the shelf
Unless I should bestir myself?
Shall I be moved to love you, pray,
By hints that I must soon decay?
No woman's won by being told
How quickly she is growing old;
Nor will such ploys, when all is said,
Serve to stampede us into bed.

When from pure blackmail, next you move
To bribe or lure me into love,
No less inept, my rhyming friend,
Snared by the means, you miss your end.
"Times winged chariot", and the rest
As poetry may pass the test;
Readers will quote those lines, I trust,
Till you and I and they are dust;
But I, your destined prey, must look
Less at the bait than at the hook,
Nor, when I do, can fail to see
Just what it is you offer me:
Love on the run, a rough embrace
Snatched in the fury of the chase,
The grave before us and the wheels
Of Time's grim chariot at our heels,
While we, like "am'rous birds of prey",
Tear at each other by the way.

To say the least, the scene you paint
Is, what you call my honour, quaint!
And on this point what prompted you
So crudely, and in public too,
To canvass and , indeed, make free
With my entire anatomy?
Poets have licence, I confess,
To speak of ladies in undress;
Thighs, hearts, brows, breasts are well enough,
In verses this is common stuff;
But -- well I ask: to draw attention
To worms in -- what I blush to mention,
And prate of dust upon it too!
Sir, was this any way to woo?

Now therefore, while male self-regard
Sits on your cheek, my hopeful bard,
May I suggest, before we part,
The best way to a woman's heart
Is to be modest, candid, true;
Tell her you love and show you do;
Neither cajole nor condescend
And base the lover on the friend;
Don't bustle her or fuss or snatch:
A suitor looking at his watch
Is not a posture that persuades
Willing, much less reluctant maids.

Remember that she will be stirred
More by the spirit than the word;
For truth and tenderness do more
Than coruscating metaphor.
Had you addressed me in such terms
And prattled less of graves and worms,
I might, who knows, have warmed to you;
But, as things stand, must bid adieu
(Though I am grateful for the rhyme)
And wish you better luck next time.

- A. D. Hope
 Mr. Hope comes up with an effective rejoinder to a great poem with an equally fantastic poem. Now one wishes more men in the world wud fight back with razor-sharp wit than blunt weapons, dont you? :D


S. Susan Deborah said...

Ah, I bet you are more interested in Literature just because you aren't one. I have read both these poems long ago and I find it delightful to learn that a non-lit person has also enjoyed it the same way as I have.

Have you read the poem "The Dover Beach" by Arnold and the spoof called "The Dover Bitch"? You should . . .

Joy always,

Tangled up in blue... said...

Susan! Thank you! And no I haven't, I'm googling them right now..and I guess your theory is correct. One is more inclined to seek out knowledge of things one is not compelled to study. :D

Dear Susan, do give me more recommendations. I only come across such gems by accident, and those accidents are too few and far between.

T. said...

ahahahaha this was amazing!! i loved the second one a great deal!! n my wit is rather razorsharp what do u think?? :-P

Tangled up in blue... said...

Now, if your asking me that it cudnt be all that razorsharp, now cud it? :P

T. said...

And I thought this day would never yet arrive cookie your is your and you are is you're :-P

Tangled up in blue... said...

Dammit! Grammar Nazi kahi ka! :P

T. said...

ahahahahaha sweet revenge!! what happened? too distracted with studies?? too bad! ahahahaha

Tangled up in blue... said...


T. said...

awwww!!! ahaahahaha

Tangled up in blue... said...

Go away! Shoo! Dont waste my comment space..go shoot a rook or something!

T. said...

"shoot a rook"??? now u must be really mad! sorry sorry n best of luck! :-)

Tangled up in blue... said...

I'm not talking to you here anymore. You're mean in cyberspace!

Tangled up in blue... said...

Better still; you are mean in cyberspace.

T. said...

see? u live, u learn right? ill call u after ur exams best of luck :-)

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I remember reading about Charles Bukowski first on your blog, your previous blog perhaps. And I have been hooked to his writings.
Similarly both these poems were excellent. And I have multiple tabs open right now- A.D. Hope, all of them! :)

Tangled up in blue... said...

Priyanka, I'm glad you liked the poetry as much as I did..I only ended up discovering these poets pretty much by accident and I just cudnt help posting about them. I just wish I had a book or a person to tell me about awesome poetry. Then, it wudnt take me this long.

Or perhaps, it's better this way becoz now I have this immeasurable excitement every time I find something like this. :D

Ronan said...

I looked up A. D. Hope for an assignment and landed up on your blog. Great one you have got. Best wishes from Australia!

Tangled up in blue... said...

Ian, thank you! :)

Ronan, best of luck with your assignment. Welcome to my blog and thank you. :)

Pankaj said...

hee hee. this was incredible.

Tangled up in blue... said...

Pankaj, I know, right? :D

Unknown said...

It's one thing to blindly eulogise something. It's another thing to be perceptive and witty enough to see through it and be creative enough to come up with an apt rejoinder. I've recited Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" quite a few times from a borrowed copy of 'The Penguin Book Of English Verse', and never thought beyond the elegance of this amorous rhyme. A passive reader, indeed!

Now, this particular repartee from an unheard-of Mr.Hope was as much enjoyable as it was edifying: about the modus operandi to be employed while wooing a woman. ;)

Despite being initially irritated by the sceptic and refractory nature of "His Coy Mistress to Marvel", I soon fell for the marvellous 'woman' who literally gave Mr.Marvell, a piece of her mind. I wish if such sharp-witted and endearingly arrogant belles were for real. :P :D

Thanks a lot, Karishma! Take care.

Tangled up in blue... said...

I knew you'd enjoy and appreciate it, Rohith, which is why I requested you to read it. :) I'm glad you did. You take care, as well. :)