To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time is a poem by Robert Herrick written in 1648. It was first published as part of his collection, titled Hesperides. This lyrical poem has been described as "one of the best-known poems in English literature." The poem's theme revolves around carpe diem and encourages young people to take advantage of their youth while they can.
The speaker opens with an exhortation for young virgins—presumably unmarried women—to make use of their time before it runs out on them. He warns that beauty fades quickly, so they should not wait too long before seeking love and marriage: "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may/Old Time is still a flying" (lines 1–2). In other words, one must seize the day because life passes quickly; he emphasizes this point by noting how flowers fade away once picked or cut (line 5).
In addition to seizing opportunities for romance and pleasure when possible, Herrick also urges readers to be mindful of their spiritual lives: "And this same flower that smiles today/Tomorrow will be dying" (lines 6–7). Here he suggests that life is fleeting like petals falling off roses; thus, we ought not to waste our days but rather focus on cultivating our souls through prayer and meditation.
Finally, Herrick offers a sobering conclusion about death being unavoidable regardless of whether one seizes every moment or spends time idly doing nothing: "Then be not coy but use your time/And while you may go marry" (lines 9–10). Thus, although living each day fully matters greatly, ultimately no amount of effort can stop death from coming eventually. This serves as a reminder against procrastination since there are only limited moments available in life until its end arrives.
Overall, To the Virgins speaks directly to those who feel uncertain about how they should live their lives, especially during their youthful years, when everything feels wide open yet danger lies ahead, waiting at any turn. Even though mortality remains ever present, always lurking right underneath the surface, it reminds us all that preciousness comes with fragility, making these golden years even more special than usual amidst uncertainty.