I. 1st Stanza
“Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime”. An old gentleman is trying to win a heart of a young woman. She could be a coquette that seduces men to gain their admiration and the affections, for the sake of praising their beauty or from a desire of conquest; and would not respond to their feelings while she is toying them. At any rate, it was more than the convention in Marvels’ day for a pretty woman when she found herself talking with any man, displaying her shyness or reserve or unwillingness, at least for the first little while.
“We would sit down, and think which way, To walk, and pass our long love’s day.” In these lines, we assume that time continues forever because the poem describes the leisurely pace of life spent in courtship of the beloved, silent mistress.
“Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side , Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide”. In these lines the speaker embarks on some astonishing hyperbole to describe the praise he wants to give to his mistress. He selects two rivers, India’s Ganges, which is sacred to the Hindu religion and was believed to be the goddess, and England’s Humber, which flows past Marvel’s hometown of Hull. The wide distance separating the two rivers compares with the time needed to spend sufficiently in courtship. That the mistress would find rubies in the Ganges underlines the exotic nature of a river in India. The Humber River in England, by comparison, is a slow moving, dirty estuary where one could only find dirty shoes. The distance between the speaker and the mistress is a metaphor for the lavish, slow consumption of time spent in praise.
“Of Humber would complain, I would… Till the conversion of the Jews.” The flood indicated in the poem is the flood in the Bible in the book of Genesis. So he would love her since ever. And then he adds 'Till the conversion of the Jews' ... most Jews never have converted. Those two religious references are just a way to tell her that he...
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