Herrick's poem "To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time" is rather short, consisting of four stanzas of four lines each. The very first line of the first stanza draws attention to the transience of youth and beauty. Herrick exhorts the virgins to gather rose-buds "while ye may," for rosebuds do not last too long. The smiling flower of today will, without any doubt, fade away and die tomorrow. Herrick does not have to spell out the fact that the plight of the flower should alert the virgins to their own plight-their beauty, too, is almost as fleeting as that of the flower. The second stanza, in a similar vein, speaks of "the glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun." The higher the sun's position in the sky, the poet says, "the sooner his race will be run." In spite of all the power and glory of the risen sun, the inexorable law, which decides that he then should set, and die from the sky, will inevitably prove stronger than he. Again, Herrick does not need to remind the young virgins that this illustration is actually a metaphor to parallel the precarious state of their own youth and beauty.
The last two stanzas express the poet's meaning in a much more explicit manner. The 'first' age of life-youth-is no doubt the best, the poet says in the third stanza, but inevitably, worse times will succeed this first age, and the 'worst' will remain in store till the end. The full force of the poet's intention becomes clear in the message that is quite bluntly spelt out in the last stanza. "Be not coy, but use your time," he tells the girls. He advises them to "go marry," for, once the prime of their life is past, they may perhaps ever tarry, 'virgins' still, but not even assured of the respect which accompanies that title. Herrick presents coyness rather than its opposite as a fatal weakness or a temptation to be strenuously fought and overcome. The natural adult state is the state of marriage, and, though the poet does not use the words, he seems to imply the state of sexual union.
Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress" is more personal and direct, because the poem is addressed directly to the poet's 'coy mistress' and not to any generalized congregation of 'virgins.' Marvell begins with the implicit argument that the coyness exhibited by his mistress is nothing short of criminal. It would have been no crime only if they had "but world enough and time"-and which young couple in the world could ever claim a surfeit of these Yet, he good-naturedly assures her that he would have been happy to fall in with her inclinations, if it were only possible.
After accusing his mistress of the 'crime' of coyness in the first couplet, Marvell uses the rest of the first stanza to enumerate how he would have gladly spent an eternity wooing her without any complaint, if he did have infinite time at his disposal. In an ideal situation of infinite time, he would have happily let her indulge in the luxury of refusing his love from around the time of Noah's flood till the Day of Judgment. If he had all the time in the world to spare, he would readily let his 'vegetable love' to grow "vaster than empires, and more slow." He could, of course, spend the time quite agreeably. He would with the utmost pleasure, then use a hundred years to praise his mistress's eyes while gazing on her forehead. Likewise, he would take two hundred years to "adore each breast"-but "thirty thousand to the rest"-at the