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Funanya Uchemefuna

Dr. Hernandez

ENG 305

27 September 2017

Romantic Love is a Superficial Feeling

The main focus in the love poem, “To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert

Herrick (1648) is to display a sense of “carpe diem” or in other words “seize the day”. The

overall point to this poem is to express to people of all generations that life is short, so one must

not waste it, using waste as a loose term that one can interpret anyway they see fit. The term

‘waste’ in this text signifies youth as fleeting, which comes in conflict with the purpose of life

being centered around love, according to, Herrick. The speaker mentions time as an enemy of the

human race like an evil entity that focuses on destroying romantic love, but I understand it as

time revealing the true nature of what romantic love truly is. My interpretation of the speakers

meaning of love, but not any love, romantic love, revolves around the passion of two beings

being corrupted by superficial intentions. The phrase “seize the day” refers to one gaining a

deeper perception of life through ways of authentic connection of feelings towards another being

or entity. The speaker talks about romantic love or as I call it lust as this superficial thing that

focuses on youthful appearances as being the important deeper perception that equates to

“seizing” life to it’s full potential.

The rhythm of this love poem follows an “ABAB” rhyme scheme, which I feel is

interesting because it gives the “illusion” of a fast paced poem when it essense it really is not.

The speaker created a pattern of words that rhymed at the end of each line in order to give the

impression that the poem was ending quickly just as the speaker perceiving life as moving
quickly. My interpretation of the reason the speaker decided on this rhyme pattern was to get the

audience to understand that one should take the time to analyse the deeper meaning of the poem

instead of rushing through it as one would do in life.

The speaker’s description of love, which is seen when he says, “Then be not coy, but use

your time, And while ye may, go marry”, displays his concern for love being the purpose of life

and trying to get the audience to not waste it, while we are still of this earth. My interpretation of

their description of love is more of a lust feeling due to the constant metaphors of time being the

destroyer of appearances. The speaker consistently blames time for the atrocities of age by

stating, “And this same flower that smiles today/Tomorrow will be dying” (3-4). These lines in

stanza one can be read as life being short, but when you single out the word being used to

describe people as being flowers it displays the underlying meaning by way of imagery, which is

that flowers start off beautiful and then wilt and wither until they are no more. The use of the

word flower tells the audience that beauty fades. The speaker insinuates that one must find love

before looks fade and society declares you unloveable.

The constant reminder of time being the culprit for the destruction of love can simply be

seen in the second stanza, when the speaker metaphorically describes the sunset as nature’s

clock, then goes on to state, “That age is best which is the first...Times still succeed the former”

(9-12). The speaker interprets this as time being the constant winner of love not prevailing. Love

losing to time is due to the inevitability of youth lasting, which according to the speaker makes it

impossible to attain love. The fact that in order to gain love one must be attractive and/or

youthful in appearance contradicts or in other words brings a paradox to the speakers meaning of

“carpe diem”, which is to inflict knowledge onto society that the world is so much more than

material, superficial things and to set out for the deeper meaning of life before it’s too late.
“Carpe diem” does not indulge in the shallow formality of life, but yet digs deeper than the

surface it constantly tries to convey.

The love spoken about in this poem depicts one of lust. The feeling of lust is usually due

to the allure of an attractive appearance. The conception that love is replaced with lust in the

speaker’s unspoken definition can easily be concluded due to the targeted audience the speaker is

trying to appeal being “Virgins”. The speaker is divulging in lust being the main focus in life’s

purpose and to give yourself to the feeling before time can steal the opportunity of acting on it

will be the way of “carpe diem”. The speaker goes on to state, “And while ye may, go marry;/

For having lost but once your prime” (14-15), which blatantly signifies that marriage is the end

to the lustful life the youth once had. When the speaker classifies prime as being lost the

conception of living life to the fullest is now gone therefore replacing it with this trivial life of

marriage. The placement of the word marriage due to the loss of youth gives marriage this

symbolic relation to death. The speaker insinuates that life is over; dead once youth is taken.

Herrick’s love poem depicts a sense of “carpe diem” on the surface of its meaning, but

when analysis of the word usage and perception of the true meaning of “carpe diem” is put into

question, a darker revelation materializes. The speaker manipulates the social construct of love

into a taboo feeling of lust. Misconstrues marriage as a signifier or ender of life and time as an

enemy to youth. The conception that time is surrounded by negative connotations and love is

surrounded by positive is a misconception. The true revelation is not this misconception, but to

open one’s eyes into seeing that romantic love is not as it appears. Time and marriage are not

enemies to love, but yet testers of what true love is.