To the Virgins: To Make Much of Time Robert Herrick By: Billy Friel & Sidney Sokoloff
Robert Herrick (1591-1674) • Entered Cambridge University in 1613, graduating with a master of arts degree in 1620. • Ordained a minister in 1623; four years later served as a chaplain in the Duke of Buckingham's Isle of Rhe expedition, a failed attempt to come to the aid of Protestants in predominantly Catholic France. • Spent the next few years earning a name as a poet. • In 1648 Herrick published his major collection, Hesperides, consisting of 1200 poems
To The Virgins: To Make Much of Time Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to-day To-morrow 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 for ever tarry
Background of the Poem • Lines 1-4 • In the opening stanza, Herrick introduces the main theme of the poem, carpe diem; this phrase literally means ‘seize the day’. • The gathering of rosebuds is a metaphor for living life to the fullest. (Like the "virgins," the roses are buds, fresh, youthful and brimming with life) • On any particular day, people can experience joy and happiness, while the next day could be death. • Lines 5-8 • Herrick expands on the idea and image of fleeting time and the shortness of life. • The movement of the sun in the sky represents the passing of time. • The sun is usually a symbol of warmth, but the image of a sun setting brings a darker tone as a traditional symbol for death.
Background of the Poem • Lines 9-12 • Youth, when the blood is ‘warm’, is the best time of ones life, evokes the idea of carpe diem, and implies one should celebrate by indulging in it. • Herrick adds an ironic twist to the notion of pursuing love by suggesting that love is not a way to escape death. However one should pursue it as part of their journey which ultimately ends in death. • Lines 13-16 • Unites the natural cycles of life and death. • Herrick urges the ‘virgins’, who represent all those who are young and inexperienced, to pursue love and the "natural" union of matrimony, therefore adding a religious tone to the poem.
Poetic Technique: Carpe Diem • “Seize the Day” • What does this mean? • Tries to connect emotionally with reader • Common with Lyric Poetry • Poetry presenting deep feeling and emotion • Emphasizing a short lifespan • “…And this same flower that smiles today / Tomorrow will be dying.”
Poetic Technique: Symbol • Person, place, or object that adds an abstract quality to a story, or manipulates the story to the authors interest • Ex: Roses • Have very short lifespan • Evokes Carpe Diem