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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, 5
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; 10
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Then be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, goe marry:
For having lost but once your prime, 15
You may for ever tarry.
The opening lines of one of the most well-known carpe diem, "seize the day," poems in the 17thC. in which the poet tells his lover that, because time is short, we need to love now rather than later. Herrick, an Anglican minister, had to be careful about how he frames the carpe diem argument.
The poem is in argument form: the first half discusses the fact that the lovers are running out of time; the second half proposes that they use their time to love each other.
Herrick lives in a world in which the average person lives only about 37 years, so the argument that they need to do their loving while young is both practical and realistic.
A wonderful use of double-entendre, double meaning. The word "marry" means both marry, as in marriage (consistent with Herrick's profession as a minister), and "goe marry," as in "go have fun."
In other words, "If you don't use it, you are going to lose it."
Herrick and other poets, like Andrew Marvell, were part of a loose group of poets called the Metaphysical Poets, who wrote about unconventional subjects and used unusual imagery, to capture human experience.