Nettie and I went to a lovely Bar Mitzvah this weekend of her cousins’ children, twins actually. Great kids and a great event. I was struck, of course, by the collection of generations at the various dinners and brunches. Five generations in all, and Nettie and I near the top as the 2nd generation in our 60’s. Wow, time flies (tempus fugit). The 1st generation is in their 90’s now, and I’m sure they find time just as swift I as do. And with Daylight Savings also happening on this weekend, I could not help but dwell perhaps a moment too long on the transitory nature of our lives and the necessity to seize the day (carpe diem) and drain every drop from every minute.

antonio-canova-loversWhenever I ruminate like this, one poem floats from the ether of my past into the present. It’s the great metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress. Here, the young suitor beseeches his lover to not hold onto her virginity, but to give into love’s passion. He tries to make her see that time will run away with their youth and so they must capture the moment and make it theirs. My kids have heard me quote this poem ceaselessly, especially my favorite line, “But at my back I always hear times wing’ed chariot hurrying near.” I hope you enjoy the poem.

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 wingèd 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
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.


andrewmarvell–Andrew Marvell (1621–1678)


One Response to Carpe Diem

  1. Pam says:

    He would have had me at hello…Thanks Frank, great to be with you and Annette this weekend!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.