Starting with the hypothesis of having unlimited time, Marvell tells the woman in the poem that he would take forever to love her. He tells her that her refusal would not matter then, even if she refused “Till the conversion of the Jews” (Marvell), because he would have ample time to win her affections – time being infinitely available to him. Moreover, Marvell states, he would have taken to just praise the lady and her magnificent attributes. However, he soon comes back to reality, telling the lady that in actuality such timelessness is not available to them both. Thereby, Marvell “reverses his logic and tries to make the real world with limited time seem problematic and even repulsive to the mistress” (Stephens 1). With this repulsion for time lost, Marvell points out the logical that they should take the opportunity now, when they have the chance and the time, to love each other. Marvell says that as they do not have a say in how this world operates, with regard to time, they do have a choice as to how they live their life, in his own words, “Thus, though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run” (Marvell).
Although the poem is based around a sexual premise – a man asking his mistress to make love to him – the underlying theme of Marvell’s work is simply this: we are time-bound beings, and if we do not make the most of what we have today, we will not only waste the opportunities afforded to us, but we shall also regret our passiveness later on. As he says, “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace” (Marvell), i.e. when an opportunity is lost forever, you cannot get it back.
Certainly, we are limited beings, forced to follow the laws of nature. The passage of time is one such law of nature we cannot overcome or change. We are, all of us,