Lucy Vickery

Right to reply

In Competition No. 2917 you were invited to submit a reply from Andrew Marvell’s coy mistress.

Marvell’s mix of cajoling wit and harsher truths failed to persuade the Australian (male) poet A.D. Hope. Here’s an extract from his blistering reply, ‘His Coy Mistress to Mr Marvell’, published in 1978:

Had you addressed me in such terms
And prattled less of graves and worms,
I might, who knows, have warmed to you;
But, as things stand, must bid adieu

The contemporary American poet Annie Finch wasn’t having any of it either. Her equally stinging riposte begins: ‘Sir, I am not a bird of prey:/ a Lady does not seize the day.’

The entry was satisfyingly inventive — Philip Roe, Nick Grace, Martin John, John O’Byrne and Stanley McDermott III were especially good. The winners, printed below, earn £25 each and Robert Schechter snaffles the extra fiver.

Were you but Earth’s last-standing man
I might agree that life’s short span,
Combined with all you’ve rightly said
Regarding how we’ll soon be dead,
Would be persuasive we should screw.
But there are better men than you.
No woman likes a man who begs
In rhyme to get between her legs.
(It seems so desperate, don’t you think?
You might just buy a girl a drink.)
What’s more, the gossips all report
That other things than life are short,
And I prefer, I must admit,
My men to have a tighter fit.
Robert Schechter
Andrew, get this: it’s not OK
To harass women in this way
The world’s moved on and now disgust
Is all you’ll get for public lust.
My body’s mine, and so’s my time
And not for you to grope in rhyme.
You think this attitude is ‘quaint’?
Facebook agrees with me: it ain’t.
Now on your track there’s a whole swarm,
A veritable Twitter-storm.
D’you know your sexist lines will be
Online for all eternity?
No desert, no remotest cave
Can keep you private, nor the grave.

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