To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick

Published in 1648 this poem originally appeared in Herrick’s book of poetry Hesperides as poem 208. The poem is in the carpe diem theme or genre which promotes the idea that life is brief and one must live for the moment. The poem enjoyed some popular culture notoriety when it was featured in the movie Dead Poets Society (1989) where it was read by Robin Williams in his role as English teacher John Keating at an exclusive all-male preparatory school.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

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.

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.


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