“Seize the Day”
What does this phrase mean
to you, and how do you
apply it in your life?
Carpe diem is a call to live life to the fullest. It is a
literary theme that urges living and loving in the present
moment since life and earthly pleasures cannot last.
“Carpe diem," more literally translates as "pluck the
day," referring to the gathering of moments like flowers,
suggesting the ephemeral quality of life, as in Robert
Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," which
begs readers to live life to its full potential:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
Carpe Diem scene from “Dead Poet’s
Poets have regularly adapted the sentiment of
carpe diem as a means to several ends, most
notably for procuring the affections of a beloved
by pointing out the fleeting nature of life, as in
Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress":
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Read the carpe diem poems on
your handout. How do these
two poems advise the reader to
“live for today”?
"To The Virgins to Make Much of Time" Pg 301
Definitions of “Virgin”
a) "unmarried or chaste woman noted for religious piety and having a position
of reverence in the Church"
b) "maiden, unwedded girl or woman,“ Adj. chaste; maidenly; modest; as, a
c) Pure; undefiled; unmixed; fresh; new; as, virgin soil; virgin gold.
d) Not yet pregnant; impregnant.
1. Which definition of “virgin” is intended in the title of this poem?
2. In the first stanza and in the last stanza, what specific advice does
the speaker give to the virgins? Can this advice be interpreted
literally? If so, what else does it suggest beyond what it literally
3. How does the speaker’s advice create a frame for the poem?
4. In each stanza of the poem, what evidence does the speaker offer
to support the advice he gives in the first and last stanzas?
"To His Coy Mistress" pg 303
1. This poem is a dramatic monologue. Who is the speaker of this
poem? Who is he speaking to? What is the dramatic situation that
the speaker presents? What does he want from the listener?
2. Does the speaker in the first stanza think that he and his lover
have "world enough and time"? If they did, how would he choose
to spend that time?
3. In the second stanza, the speaker describes his awareness of time
and immanent death. How does time influence his relationship with
4. If we view this poem as the speaker's attempt to create a logical
argument (1. "If we had"; 2. "But"; 3. "Therefore") to persuade his
lover, the third stanza presents the final statement of that
argument. What does the speaker offer as the logical conclusion to
be drawn from the ideas presented in the first two stanzas?
"To His Coy Mistress"
Presentation of a logical argument, or syllogism. In "To
His Coy Mistress," this argument may be outlined as
(1)We could spend decades or even centuries in
courtship if time stood still and we remained young.
(2) But time passes swiftly and relentlessly.
(3) Therefore, we must enjoy the pleasure of each other
now, without further ado. The conclusion of the
argument begins at Line 33 with "Now therefore."
Herrick and Marvell have similar objectives but different
approaches. How do you react to the two poems and
poets? Is one more persuasive than the other? How are
their arguments both similar and different? We could
spend decades or even centuries in courtship if time stood
still and we remained young.
Do you think there are echoes of Herrick’s poem in
contemporary media? Does the speaker in this poem hold
any values that are shared by modern advertisements,
television shows, or popular songs? What are they? But
time passes swiftly and relentlessly.