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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

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"To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time" is one of Robert Herrick famous poems that express the philosophy of carpe diem. Carpe diem is a Latin word that means to "seize the day." The poem is a lyric composed of sixteen lines arranged into four stanzas. It is written in iambic meter with four stressed syllables in the first and third lines, three in the second and fourth. In the opening stanza, Herrick articulates the carpe diem principle that urges one to "seize the day." In the second stanza, the poet expands on the image of fleeting time and brevity of life. In the third stanza, the poet offers wisdom to the young and naпve "virgins" to make the best out of their lives. Lastly, the last stanza, Herrick encourages the young virgins to pursue their loves and the union of matrimony. The underlying message in the poem appears to be one of uplift: waste no time; live your life to the fullest each day and embrace the moment.

The speaker in this poem uses carpe diem as its theme proposes that since death is unavoidable and time is passing, the listener, often a reluctant virgin, should take advantage of the sensual pleasures the speaker reveals to her. The speaker in the first three stanzas suggests to his listeners to "use your time" wisely by enjoying sexual love. He also communicates the poignant sadness of the pursuit of pleasures as "old Time is still a-flying." Herrick uses the image of the rose in the first stanza in two traditional ways: as the symbol of beauty and of the transitory nature of life. Like the rosebuds, the virgins to whom the speaker in Herrick's poem addresses his words have not yet flowered. With this analogy, he suggests that if they give up their virginity, they will blossom into lovely roses. When he notes that the flowers "tomorrow will be dying," he reinforces his argument to his listeners that they must "make much of time" by experiencing pleasure before the opportunity passes. Whereas the unavoidability of death is revealed in an almost gentle image of "old time . . . a flying" in the second line, its harsh reality emerges in the fourth when the speaker insists that the flowers will die soon after their blossoming.

In the second stanza, Herrick reinforces this sense of urgency. The image of time flying in the first is echoed by the personification of the sun in the second as it runs its race in the heavens. The short life of both the flowers and the sun reflects the unavoidability of death throughout nature. The sun as "the glorious lamp of heaven" is often used as it is here as a representation of life itself, its path from sunrise to sunset reflecting the stages of human life. As it sets, the sun seems to be dying, as the roses, and, eventually, the virgins as well. Therefore, the virgins should race against time, like the sun, to enjoy life to the fullest.

Consistent with the idea of time being unconquerable, the third stanza agrees that youth should be made advantage of but not to be taken

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