Introduction & Overview of To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Robert Herrick
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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time Summary & Study Guide Description

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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First published in 1648 in a volume of verse entitled Hesperides, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" is perhaps one of the most famous poems to extol the notion of carpe diem. Carpe diem, or "seize the day," expresses a philosophy that recognizes the brevity of life and therefore the need to live for and in the moment. Seizing the day means eating, drinking and making merry for tomorrow we shall all die. The phrase was used by classicists such as Horace, and its spirit marks the theme of Herrick's lyric poem. Echoing Ben Jonson's poem, "Song: To Celia," the speaker of the poem underscores the ephemeral quality of life and urges those in their youth to actively celebrate life and its pleasures; however, the speaker does not urge "the virgins" simply to frolic adulterously, but to seek union in matrimony, thereby uniting the natural cycles of life and death with the rites and ceremonies of Christian worship. Although a very common theme in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century verse, and particularly in Cavalier poetry, the association of Christianity and carpe diem is not a traditional one; it is unique to Herrick and perhaps "natural" given Herrick's thirty-two year career as vicar of Dean Prior, an appointment originally bestowed by King Charles I. Written during a period of great political unrest that culminated in Britain's Civil War, the theme and the sage advice proffered by the speaker of the poem appears appropriate in this particularly transient period. The carpe diem spirit, however, has translated to modern times and is the theme of Henry James's The Ambassadors and Robert Frost's "Carpe Diem."

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Poetry for Students
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.