Robert Herrick (1591-1674) is one of the most noteworthy figures of early 17th-century British poetry and primarily known for his slew of poems chosen by anthologists W.H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson for Poets of the English Language, a superb five-volume set published by the Viking Press in 1950. Posting poems by Herrick over the next few days also allows us to champion the Poetry Foundation’s excellent website, where readers can find a fascinating bio on Herrick, the courtier poet to King Charles I who “died a poor country parson, whom no fellow poet seems to have commemorated with a verse-epitaph, much less an elegy.” The first poem we’re featuring is “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”:
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 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, goe marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
(Painting: Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May by John William Waterhouse, 1909, via Wikimedia Commons)