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Robert Herrick Poems To The Virgins Essay

“To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” is a short lyric poem that at first reading seems to be simply a call to young women to enjoy life, particularly its physical pleasures, while they are young.

Robert Herrick is considered one of the circle of poets (sometimes called the “sons of Ben”) that gathered around poet and playwright Ben Jonson in London in the early seventeenth century. Herrick became a country pastor in 1629, but when upon the advent of the English Civil War he remained loyal to his king, he was ousted from his post by the Puritans, who closed the theaters and taverns—and eventually executed the king. This political exile deprived Herrick of his living and cut him off from the possibility of returning to London. It is hard to tell when Herrick poems such as “Delight in Disorder,” “Upon Julia’s Clothes,” and this one were actually written, but since they were published together in 1648, only a year after Herrick was removed from his post, they may constitute a kind of challenge to Puritan strictures.

The title of the poem begins the address to the virgins. To “make much of time” is both to make something happen while time is passing and to pay attention to its passage. In the first stanza, one use to be made of time is to collect flowers before they are yet in full bloom, because time passes so quickly that soon new flowers will be withered on the vine.

The idea of the passage of time is given a new image as the second stanza describes the movement of the sun. By casting its circuit through the sky in terms of a “race,” the sense of how quickly time passes is emphasized; in the same way that the passing away of the “smile” of the flower is inherent in its bud, the setting of the sun is implicit in its rising. The combination of the idea of gathering in the first stanza and the reference to the sun in the second seems to echo the well-known injunction to “make hay while the sun shines.”

In the third stanza, the idea of the passage of time is cast in human terms: The “first” or young age is “best,” “warmer,” more active. Just as heat is expended by the sun, however, the heat that makes youth warm is also “spent” and diminishes from “best” to “worse” to “worst.” The passage from youth to age in this stanza is parallel to the progression of bud to bloom to death of the flowers in the first.

The shift to human terms in the third stanza anticipates the return in the fourth to direct address to the virgins. They are admonished not to be “coy,” which means “to shrink from familiarity,” in two senses: in modesty or flirtatiousness. So what this request calls for is that the virgins not, in either innocent ignorance or in proud folly, forget how quickly time passes. They are further instructed to marry while they can, with the warning that once they have lost whatever it takes to get a husband, once the time to do so has passed, they may “tarry,” wait, or procrastinate, forever.

Essay on To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick

612 Words3 Pages

     The meaning of the first stanza is do the things you need to get done because tomorrow the opportunity may not exist. It states this by saying gather rosebuds while you can because that beautiful flower “tomorrow will be dying” (Herrick 385). The next stanza talks about the Sun’s life from dawn to dusk. By describing it’s race against time it is telling a person that there is not much sunlight so make the most of it To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time and Carpe Diem
Ever hear of the phrase “carpe diem”? It is a common Latin phrase meaning “seize the day” or in plain English, make the most of the time you have. This phrase is very well portrayed in Robert Herrick’s most popular poem “To the Virgins, to Make…show more content…

The second stanza tells about a “glorious lamp of heaven”, the sun, running a race from sunup to sundown (Herrick 385). In the third stanza it talks about when people are youthful they think they have all the time to accomplish their goals but “times still succeed the former”, which simply means time
Huffer 2 always wins and people are old before they know it (Herrick 385). The meaning and theme of carpe diem is clearly described in the four stanzas of the poem. before it’s gone. The third stanza means simply that the times are best when people are young to realize their dreams and do something about it instead of wasting time. Have as much fun as you can while you are a kid and do as much as you can when you are a teenager and most importantly live everyday to your highest expectations. The way I comprehended Herrick’s ways of portraying the poem with images and what it means tells how it makes me feel.
     I really like this poem because it makes me want to get out of bed in the morning or turn off the television and do something productive like read a book, or go to the gym. It perfectly reveals the true meaning of carpe diem. The very first sentence alone tells me to get things done while I can. Now when I think of “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”, it will remind me of carpe diem, which will make me want to make every minute of my day account for something good whether it be reading a chapter

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