Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, (1)
The "rosebuds" refer to marriage; a "bud" usually means an unripe
flower, or one that hasn't fully matured yet. Is the speaker encouraging
the virgins to get married before they're ready? Or is the potential
fertility of the bud (a new flower and leaves will emerge from it) meant
to emphasize the procreative (child-producing) aspect of marriage?
Tomorrow will be dying. (4)
We realize by the end of the poem that the speaker has been encouraging
the virgins to get married. "Dying," which, in the Renaissance could
refer to an orgasm, here perhaps anticipates the explicit mention of
marriage in the last stanza. It suggests sexual intercourse, which in
turn suggests marriage – at least in a relatively pious poem like this
Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry: (13-14)
It's hard not to hear the word "merry" (as in happy) in "marry." The
potential wordplay here might suggest a close association between
happiness and marriage, as if to "marry" makes one "merry." "Marry"
sounds kind of awkward, though, and it's also possible that the speaker
wants us to just hear "merry." Could the speaker craftily be advocating for the opposite of marriage: a life of carefree, unattached fun?