Does Herrick describe the joys of growing old in "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not favorably. In Herrick's opinion, all the joys are to be found in, sexuality, freedom to experiment. Here is the poem in its entirety. My analysis appears in brackets below lines as necessary:

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.

(Don't waste time, the speaker is saying. Like the bloom of a flower, the beauty and newness will not last long.)

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.

(Like the sun that rises, your life too has a cycle and it is shorter than you may believe.)

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.

(Youth is prime. When it is gone, it shall not return.)

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.

(So, take advantage of the pleasures of youth! Soon you will be married, your youthful beauty gone, and your prime will never return. "Carpe Diem"...seize the day...

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

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