To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds 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.

This poem, written by Robert Herrick, is based on the Latin phrase “carpe diem” which translates to “seize the day”. It was published in 1648 as number 208 in volume of verse “Hesperides”. It is one of the most famous poems about carpe diem. Robert Herrick was a 17th century English poet, he is known for his book of poem, ”Hesperides”

The oil painting “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” (Waterhouse painting 1909), created by John William, was inspired by this poem. It was one of the two paintings inspired by this poem. The first painting was created in 1908 by the same artist.

This poem gives a great message when read for a general group of readers but when you try to understand that this poem is written for young women, it depicts that, women were thought of as important only because of their beauty and nothing else. As this poem was written in the 17th century, it might not have been criticized for this notion about women. But when we read this poem now, we cannot help but notice why were women valued only for their beauty and their bodies and nothing else?

The poet asks “Virgins” i.e., young women to not waste their youth and while they are still beautiful, they should love and get married, while you are young and capable, give love. Once you get older your beauty fades away and you’ll regret that you did not love and enjoy while you could. Like the nature, the flowers, your beauty will not last forever. As the glorious sun rises it will once again have to set just like your youth. This shows what the 17th century people thought about women.

If we try to contemplate about this poem in general sense, it could be very motivational for the youth. While you’re here, living this life, you might as well make the most out of it. Love unconditionally, live better. It encourages you to take chances that you are too scared to take, whether it is confessing your love to someone or taking part in that competition or be it any other chance that you are delaying to take.

So, it depends on your perception of this poem, that you want to criticize it for the notion it depicts about women or you want to appreciate for its motivating lines.

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May *oil on canvas *101 x 82.5 cm *signed b.r.: J.W. Waterhouse. / 1909

Categories: Culture and History, Literature

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