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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

by Robert Herrick
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In "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," what is meant by the line, "And this same flower that smiles to-day / to-morrow will be dying"?

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In the first stanza, the speaker says, "Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, / Old Time is still a-flying; / And this same flower that smiles today / Tomorrow will be dying" (lines 1-4).  The rose-buds are symbolic, and there are a couple of different possibilities for what they could...

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In the first stanza, the speaker says, "Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, / Old Time is still a-flying; / And this same flower that smiles today / Tomorrow will be dying" (lines 1-4).  The rose-buds are symbolic, and there are a couple of different possibilities for what they could mean.  The speaker isn't simply literally telling his reader to gather flowers but to gather lovers while she is still young and beautiful.  The speaker might also be telling her to appreciate her youth and beauty while she still has it because time goes quickly.  As time passes, the woman loses both her youth and beauty and, thus, also, her lovers: so, she should enjoy them all while she can. 

In line three, then, the "flower that smiles today" could refer to that lover who is so interested in her now, in her youth, or it could refer to her own beauty that is in such full bloom now.  Either way, since time goes so fast, both the lover and her own beauty will die soon.  

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