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Billy Joel's "To His Coy Mistress"
I’m sure he’s not the first to do it, but Isaac Fellman (of Isaac’s Law) recently remarked upon the fact that Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” and Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” belong to the same genre of carpe diem poetry — think Horace’s Odes,
How much better it is to endure what will be,
Whether Jupiter has granted us many winters or whether this is the last one
that now wears out the Tyrrhenian sea on the opposite cliffs:
be wise, filter the wine, cut back long hope,
as life is short. While we speak, envious time has already fled:
seize the moment, trust in the future as little as possible.
or Herrick’s “To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
The higher he’s a getting;
The sooner will his Race be run,
And nearer he’s to Setting.
That Age is best, which is the first,
When Youth and Blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times, still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
Generally having to do with the brevity of life, and the subsequent urgency to embrace life while one is living, usually through sex and/or marriage. (“O maid, while youth is with the rose and thee, pluck thou the rose: life is as swift for thee!”)
Anyhow, it took some mangling, but here’s Billy Joel’s “To His Coy Mistress.”
come out, coy mistress, don’t let me wait
you know I don’t love at much slower rates
If we had the time I’d prolong this state
We might as well race the sun —
At least we can make him run
My vegetable empire grows century-praise
For thy lovely eyes and thy lovely gaze
But since the clock’s running, let’s sport while we may
(Have you ever read John Donne?)
A well-behaved grave’s no fun
That’s what I said
Well-behaved grave’s no fun
(Well-behaved grave’s no fun)
You might have heard Time’s winged chariot hurrying near
It cuts without warning each virgin’s career
Chasteness is wasted on funeral biers
But sport never hurt the young
Let’s roll our sweetness & strength in a ball
Tear off some pleasure before curtain call
That quaint marble vault is your Hadrian’s wall —
It never lets in the Huns
Why not try some barbarians?
I tell ya, well-behaved graves aren’t fun
You’ll find some nice red rubies on the banks of the Ganges waiting
You’d get an age of praise
If life supplied infinite days
But you’d lose your chance to find romance vegetating
Deserts of eternity
Can always swallow up virginity
I know there’s a heaven for those faithful-fires
But death deals out dust for the honestly quaint
Why feed our young skin to their funeral pyres?
When we could embrace as one
Darling, a well-behaved grave’s no fun