To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

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"To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" is a poem written by English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick in the 17th century. The poem is in the genre of carpe diem, Latin for "seize the day".

1648 text[edit]

Gather ye Rose-buds 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 neerer 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.[1]

Theme: carpe diem[edit]

First published in 1648 as number 208 in a volume of verse entitled Hesperides, it is perhaps one of the more famous poems to extol the notion of carpe diem, a philosophy that recognizes the brevity of life and, therefore, the need to live for and in the moment. The phrase originates in Horace's Ode 1.11.

Possible influences/origins[edit]

The opening line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" echoes the Latin phrase collige, virgo, rosas ("gather, girl, the roses"), which appears at the end of the poem "De rosis nascentibus",[2] also called "Idyllium de rosis", attributed to Ausonius or Virgil.

In the second book of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, a young man in the Bower of Bliss sings "Gather therefore the Rose, whilest yet is prime,/ For soone comes age, that will her pride deflowre:/ Gather the Rose of love, whilest yet is time,/ Whilest loving thou mayst loved be with equall crime."[3]

The first line and the theme of the poem echo a well-known couplet in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:[4]

— Lines 3-4

Nearly the same sense was expressed thousands of years earlier in Wisdom of Solomon 2:8, "Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither", a verse ironically given as the example of a fool's reasoning in denying the resurrection of the dead and turning to licence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herrick, Robert (1921). Moorman, Frederic William (ed.). The poetical Works of Robert Herrick. Oxford University Press. p. 84. Reprint of the first edition (1648) of Hesperides
  2. ^ "De rosis nascentibus" (in German) Archived 2007-08-11 at the Wayback Machine, in a collection of the works of Virgil under the note Hoc carmen scripsit poeta ignotus ("An unknown poet wrote this poem").
  3. ^ Jr, Edmund Spenser; edited by Thomas P. Roche, Jr., with the assistance of C. Patrick O'Donnell (1987). The faerie queene (Reprinted ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. Bk II, Canto XII, 75, 6–9. ISBN 0140422072.
  4. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. p. 23. OCLC 4770201.

External links[edit]