To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time (Gather ye rosebuds)
by Robert Herrick
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time (Gather ye rosebuds) Time Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line)
Old time is still a-flying: (2)
The speaker uses a metaphor (time flying) that is so familiar that it's become a cliché. He suggests that there is still time left for the virgins to "gather" their "rosebuds."
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying. (3-4)
These lines immediately follow the ones about time "a-flying," suggesting that the passage of time is responsible for the flower's transition from "smiling" to "dying." The rhyme on "a-flying" and "dying" suggests as much, implying that letting time "fly" is one way to "die."
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting. (6-8)
The sun's journey through the sky is another instance of the passage of time in the poem; the word "a-getting" links the passage with the preceding stanza ("a-flying," 2) and its interest in death. Ironically, the closer the sun gets to its high point – the point when it is directly overhead – the closer it gets to "setting." The sun's high point (like the virgins' "prime," 15) is, strangely, a low point, because as soon as it reaches the high point, it starts to set.