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Symbol Analysis

The entire first stanza of "To the Virgins" is about flowers. The speaker uses the flower's life cycle to emphasize the brevity (shortness) of human life and the importance of seizing opportunities while one can.

  • Line 1: The speaker tells the virgins to gather their rosebuds while they can. By the end of the poem it becomes clear that rosebuds are probably a metaphor for marriage. The virgins only have so much time to marry, just like the rosebuds are only worth picking for so long.
  • Lines 3-4: The speaker notes how a flower that is alive one day may just as easily be dead the next. Flowers don't actually "smile"; the speaker gives a human quality (smiling) to an inhuman thing (flower) here, which is called personification.
  • Line 15: The speaker doesn't actually refer to flowers here, but the word "prime," as in the expression "prime of life" recalls the idea of ripe rosebuds from line 1.

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