Time, I think, for another of my poetry pastiches. “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell (1621-78) is one of English poetry’s best-known masterpieces. Very few poems become so much a part of the national consciousness that they provide lines or pharases known universally. In Marvell’s poem, you find: “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”; “The grave’s a fine and private place,/but none, I think, do there embrace”; and, of course, that immortal beginning: “Had we but world enough, and time,/this coyness, lady, were no crime”.
For my pastiche, I imagined that Marvell was being harassed by the attentions of a particularly persistent beggar. Out of frustration, he writes an impassioned verse, beseeching the beggar to see sense and leave him alone. Later on, he sees that he can use much of the form and sentiments of this earlier verse, when he comes to write “To His Coy Mistress”. In other words, my pastiche is supposed to be an earlier version of Marvell’s masterpiece, which just happens to be addressed to an entirely different subject.
To a Persistent Beggar: (After Andrew Marvell*)
Had my brain been sunken and steeped in wine,
all my riches, varlet, would now be thine.
We would quench our thirst with beakers of gin.
Speculate idly on subtle categories of sin.
Wines of rare vintage would flow, like a river.
I would down them all, with scant respect for my liver.
Smiling wenches would ensure we were fulsomely fed.
Sumptuous cushions to rest on; soft pillows for my head.
Interspersing our carousing with games of chance.
Escorting young maidens, with merriment and dance.
My sense of well-being would swell, like a flood.
But such indulgent excess is too rich for my blood.
Follow such a course, and the poorhouse awaits.
I feel I am not destined for that unhappy fate.
My good sense may be lacking, but I am not yet insane.
I can reject such temptations; so, unhand me, villain!
Why should I grant you the means to an easy life,
in a world where rascals like you are rife?
You are far from feeble; you still have your health.
You may not discern it, but that is true wealth.
For you to seize upon me, then, leech-like, to cling,
is an affront to morality; a truly shameful thing.
So, stand away from me, sirrah! Keep your back straight.
The value of my advice will, in time, appreciate.
Though we are not sprawled, in happily drunken daze,
we are free, at least, to wend our separate ways!
*(“To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvel)