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Gather Ye Rosebuds Poem

The 17th century English poet Robert Herrick is largely remembered today for a single poem, which he first published in 1648. Found among the 1200 poems in his Hesperides is “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.” Students of poetry often are familiar with this poem by its opening line, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Gather Ye Rosebuds PoemLike many of Herrick’s works, this is a carpe diem poem, and Herrick is credited with reviving the genre in the 17th century.

The entirety of the first stanza is enough to provide a clear example of the philosophy behind a carpe diem poem. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may/Old Tine is still a-flying/And this same flower that smiles today/Tomorrow will be dying.” Carpe diem, of course, refers to the Latin phrase, first used by Horace in his Odes, and can be translated as “seize the day.” This line was used in the film Dead Poets Society.

Herrick’s writing style was heavily influenced by Ben Johnson, but Herrick’s simple use of language often makes his work far more accessible to modern readers than many other poets from that time. Herrick’s philosophy, expressed in “Gather ye rosebuds” often finds a sympathetic ear among those who recognize both the brevity of life and the need to live life to the fullest. The final stanza reminds readers “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.”

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