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  • Richard Farr

Time's wingèd chariot

Andrew Marvell. The chariot caught up with him on August 16th, 1678.

I was amused and a little disturbed recently to stumble upon both a couple of life expectancy calculators (here's one) and a page on the marvelously nerdy that allows you to create a countdown to any date, including that one.

Four calculators gave me significantly different estimates of my own appointment with the celestial taxi, but plugging in a rough average allows me to see the (predicted) remaining span in days, hours, etc.

I have to say that the number of days is appallingly small:

But at my back I always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Andrew Marvell, drooling over his "coy mistress," has the answer of course:

Now therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew, And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may, 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:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Ooh, that last couplet has a genius that any author must envy. The whole poem is here.


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