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‘To the Virgins to Make Much of Time’ is a poem written by Robert Herrick. It encourages the readers, women in particular, to seize the day and enjoy life to its fullest, making the most of whatever time they have in their hands.
About the Poet:
Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was an eminent English Poet. Interestingly, he was also an Anglican cleric. Famous works of his include ‘To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time’, ‘Hesperides’ and ‘Hymn to Venus’.
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying.
The poem begins with the persona urging the readers, especially young women, to pick the buds of roses while they still could. They warn them that time flew, waiting for no one. To substantiate this point, they remind the readers that even the famed beauty of flowers wilt the next day, thus cautioning young women to do what they wished while they still could.
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.
Again, transience of time is emphasized here. The glory of the Sun even as he rises is but a race that eventually ends with it setting. How time is precious is thus highlighted.
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.
This stanza too echoes the sentiments of the previous stanza. ‘Age’ here refers to human life essentially, how the best part of it is the first days of youth when the “blood was warmer”. As youth is spent and old age seeps in, life gets progressively worse, time triumphing at the end.
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.
In the final stanza again, the persona purges the readers to not be ‘coy’ and make the most of their time. For the prime of youth once last will always be lost, never to be found again. Hence, the persona urges young women to forgo their inhibitions and marry in their glorious youth.
This is a motivational poem that urges the readers to not let anything hold them back and forge ahead towards their dreams and aspirations, taking no thought of the morrow.