To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

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Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse Waterhouse-gather ye rosebuds-1909.jpg
Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May , by John William Waterhouse

"To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" is a 1648 poem by the English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick. The poem is in the genre of carpe diem , Latin for "seize the day".


1648 text

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]


Illustration by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale The Book of old English songs and ballads - 25 Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old Time is still a-flying.jpg
Illustration by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

First published as number 208 in the verse collection Hesperides (1648), the poem extols the notion of carpe diem, a philosophy that recognizes the brevity of life and the need to live for and in the moment. The phrase originates in Horace's Ode 1.11.

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  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