Please explain some of the literary devices in "To the Virgina, Make Much of Time."

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As mentioned above, the theme of this poem is "Carpe diem," or "seize the day." It strongly advises young women ("virgins") to enjoy life now. They should enjoy life today because they never know what will happen: they may die, and if they don't, they will become old and undesirable.

Literary devices used in the poem include metaphor. A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the words "like" or "as." A metaphor in poetry often compares  a concrete image that we  can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell to an abstract concept.

In this poem, the sun becomes a metaphor for time. A human lifetime is thus compared to a single day. A life, like the sun rises (is born), reaches its zenith, and sets. The setting sun is a metaphor for death.

Further, the sun itself is compared to a lamp, another metaphor. Herrick calls the sun "the glorious lamp of heaven." 

Herrick also uses alliteration, which is using the same consonant more than once at the beginning of words in close proximity to each other. In this poem, we read:

And while ye may, go marry.

"May" and "marry" are alliterative, which draws attention to them. There's also a suggestion of a pun in these words: "may" means "can" or "be able to," but it also is the name of a month associated with springtime, the blossoming of plants, and youth. "Marry," likewise, seems to mean "merry" or happy, but also sounds like and is spelled as "marry," meaning to wed. One way to seize the day is to marry while you can, in other words, while still young and desirable. 



ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is considered one of the "Carpe Diem" poems. In Latin, carpe diem" is usually translated "seize the day." However, carpo in Latin can also refer to picking or plucking flowers or fruits, and this association goes well with the imagery he uses when he admonishes virgins to "gather ye rosebuds while ye may." In the first stanza, Herrick also employs personification when he says, "time is still a-flying" and "this same flower that smiles". The second stanza contains an allusion to the sun god, Helios, who each day raced his chariot across the sky. Herrick wirtes that ". . .the sun/ The higher he's a getting,/The sooner will his race be won. This also contains personification by comparing the sun to a racer. Herrick again uses personification when he implies that Time will always follow and bring the worst with it. The final imagery of the poem suggests that if virgins do not marry they will "forever tarry" or linger.

tpantuso | Student

one thing at work is synecdoche where the flower is representing purity and youth.  this metaphor is carried throughout the poem through parallelism.

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

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