Gather ye rosebuds which ye may, 1
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun, 5
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be fun,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst 10
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime, 15
You may forever tarry.
Herrick describes a maiden’s life as one to be cherished and used wisely otherwise she will grow old without a husband; he intensifies this position by symbolizing the maiden or virgin’s life with a rosebuds. In the first stanza Herrick describes that a maiden must “Gather ye rosebuds which ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying.” He describes both the life of a rose bud and the life of a maiden here. Rose buds will die so you have to gather them quickly. Yet, he speaks of a virgin/ maiden here too, because if she does not act, tomorrow this beauty will die.
In the next stanza the speaker uses the path of time to describe how a virgin must hurry to marry. He describes “this race be run And nearer he’s to setting.” The speaker describes this path of time for both the rose buds and the maidens. The rose buds will come and go with time, but the virgin will not. The virgin will not be able to rebirth like the rose buds. The virgin needs to marry quickly before time runs out.
The speaker then goes on to say how young age is so important and that being older will change the situation. He explains the rose bud connection here. He says, “That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer; But being spent, the worse, and worst Times still succeed the former.” Young age is the best for marrying, and this option dies with time. Time will succeed the maiden. The youth and blood of the maiden are compared to the rose buds because rose buds are red and young.
The speaker sums up his advice in the last paragraph. He says that the maiden must hurry and marry “for having lost but once [her] prime, [She] may forever tarry.” Once the virgin grows old she will not be desirable anymore. She must act now.