Posted by: Tom Triumph | March 1, 2009

16. the Virgins, to make much of Time: Robert Herrick

When I ask my students to define a poem at the start of the year, they always say “it rhymes”. “To the Virgins” has this in spades.

One the central “Dead Poets Society” poems and the first introduced to the viewer, Robert Herrick’s title will make your middle school students titter as they do in the movie. Hating the movie when it first came out, I have grown to enjoy showing it for the mirror it holds up to my students (far from an elite private school, but kids are kids), the great conversations we have about symbolism and the decisions the director makes that they do not notice, and, of course, the poems.

It is a wrestle. Simple, yet why doesn’t Herrick just say it? Good question. Discuss.

To the Virgins, to make much of Time
Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds 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 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 for ever tarry.

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