An early manuscript copy of Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'


This manuscript miscellany of Restoration poetry contains the earliest known copy of Andrew Marvell’s celebrated lyrical poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ (pp. 283–84). It is also the only copy which pre-dates the publication of Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems (1681).

The collection was compiled by Sir William Haward (c. 1617–1704), a courtier and antiquary.

What are the differences between the print and manuscript versions?

The most notable difference between this manuscript copy and the printed text is that the end of the poem is expanded and the imagery refined in the printed version. For instance, the manuscript lines, ‘Or like the amorous Bird of prey, / Scorning to admitt delay, / Let us att once our Selves devoure / Not linger in Tymes slow-Chap’t power’, are transformed into:

And now, like amorous birds of prey
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life.

In addition, the speaker’s homage to his mistress’s anatomy in lines 13–16 is subtly revised and finessed in the printed version:

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. (Miscellaneous Poems, p. 19)

Compare this with the manuscript version:

One hundred yeares should goe to prauyse
Your Brow, & on your forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore your eyes,
But thirty thousand to your Thighes.

These additions and changes suggest that the poem in the manuscript miscellany records an earlier stage of composition.


Ave, fęlix creatura,
quam produxit vitis pura;
omnis mensa fit secura
in tua pręsentia.

Fęlix venter, quem intrabis,
fęlix os, quod tu rigabis,
fęlix est, quem satiabis,
et beata labia.

Ave, color vini clari,
ave, sapor vini puri,
tuâ nos inebriari
digneris potentia.

Minist iorum Grex deuotus,
Omnis Mumdus, Clerus totus,
Bibat ad ęquales potus
Et nunc, & in sęcula.

Ergo vinum collaudemus,
Potatores exalternus,
Nonpotantes contundemus
Ad Inferni Spupplicia.

[Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress begins below]

Had I but world enough, & tyme,
This Coynesse, Madam, were noe Crime.
I could sitt downe, & thinke, which way
To walke, & passe our long-loves day.
You by ye Indian Ganges side
Should Rubyes seeke; I by the Tide
Of Humber would complaine, I woud
Love you ten yeares before ye Floud,
And you should, if you please, refuse,
Till ye conversion of the Jewes.
My vegetable Love should grow
Vaster, than Empires, but more slow.
One hundred yeares should goe to prayse
Your Brow, & on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore your eyes,
But thirty thousand to your Thighes.
An age att least to every part,
And the last Age to shew your heart.

For, Madam, you deserve this State,
Nor can I love att lower Rate.
But harke, behind meethinkes I heare
Tymes winged Charriot hurrying neare,
And yonder all before us lyes
Desarts of vast Eternityes.
Your beauty will stand neede of Salt,
For in the hollow Marble Vault
Will my Songs Eccho, Wormes must try
Your long preserv’d Virginity.
Now then whil’st ye youthfull Glue
Stickes on your cheeke, like Morning Dew,
Or like the amorous Bird of prey,
Scorring to admit delay,
Lett us att once our selves devoure,
Not linger in Tymes slow-chop’t power,
And synce Wee cannot make the Sun
Goe backe nor stand, wee’l make him run.

On Mr Edward Howards poeme,
The Ld. Buckhurst ye supposed

Come on yee Critickes, Finde one Faulte, who dare?
Nay, reade itt backwards, like a Witches prayer,
I will doe as well. Fling not away Jeasts
At solid nonsense, that abides all tests.
Witt, like Teirce-Clarrett, which begins to pall,
Neglected lyes, & of noe use att all,
Yey in ye full perfection of decay
Turnes Vineger, & comes againe in play.
This Simile shall stand in they defence
‘Gainst all dull Rogues, that now, & then write Sense
Hee lyes, deare Heart, that says, they braines are barren,
Who drops Conceits, like Vermyn bred in Carrion.
For thou hast Braines (Such as they are indeede)
On what else should thy Worme of Fancy feede?
Yet in a Filbord I have often knowne
Maggotts suvive, & all ye Kernell gone.
They stile’s the same, what ever bee they Theame;
As some Digestions turne all Meates to Flegme:
As skilfull Divers to the bottome fall
Sonner, then they, that cannot swimme att all:

Full title:
Bodleian Don.b.8.
c. 1667–82
William Haward, Andrew Marvell
© Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Held by
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Bodleian Don.b.8.

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