Friday, February 14, 2020

Carpe Diem Poetry: To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

photo © Mark Butkus 2019
Seize the day!

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.

— Robert Herrick

Written by English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674), To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, is in the form of carpe diem poetry —  a philosophy that recognizes the brevity of life and the need to live in the moment. To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time is one of the more famous poems to extol the notion of carpe diem.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time was first published in 1648 in the author's ambitious volume of poetry entitled, Hesperides: Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine of Robert Herrick Esq. Hesperides contains over 1200 lyric poems! The phrase carpe diem — seize the day — originates in Horace's Ode 1.11.

Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
Finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
Temptaris numeros. Ut melius quidquid erit pati,
Seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
Quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum: sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
Spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

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