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

(Oh, whoa) 

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