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An Analysis Of The Poetic Techniques Employed By Robert Herrick In His Exploration Of The Concept Of Carpe Diem

3923 words - 16 pages

Much of the poetry of the 17th century was heavily romantic, focusing on damsels and decadent parties where the Roman wine God Bacchaus ruled supreme. Amongst the movements' teachings was the idea of "Carpe Diem" - the Latin phrase for "seize the day". Herrick, fascinated by this ancient philosophy, centred many of his poems on the theme, cautioning people to use their time wisely.Robert Herrick was one of the "Tribe of Ben", a group of poets who followed and were inspired by the works of the dramatist Ben Jonson. The Cavalier Poets were seen as followers of Ben Jonson because, in the words of Professor Jennifer Mooney, "they drank with, rhymed with and modeled themselves after Jonson." The name "Cavalier" was given to the group as they were a movement who believed in living life to the full. Anniina Jokinen states: "They treat life cavalierly, indeed, and sometimes they treat poetic convention cavalierly too" They glorified the ordinary rather than great historical or fantastical epics. However it is not only this group of poets that Herrick is connected with, but with the Carpe Diem poets such as Andrew Marvell who was the author of the famous "To His Coy Mistress" and Christopher Marlowe.This dissertation will look at the texts: "All Things Decay and Die", "To Live Merrily and To Trust to Good Verses", "To Daffodils", "To Bed of Tulips", "Corinna's Gone a Maying" and the famous "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time". Each of these poems are very similar, however there are many differences that render them unique. This dissertation aims to analyse Herricks' carpe diem poetry by studying the techniques employed by Robert Herrick in his exploration of the concept.One reason why Robert Herrick's poetry is so successful is because it is simple. Part of this simplicity is helped by symbolism that is used to mirror the ideas of mortality and carpe diem. These symbols are universally understood and give the poems not only richness but also an element of clarity that is gracefully treated. This simplicity is brilliantly evident in "To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time":"Gather Ye rosebuds while ye mayOld Time is still a flyingBut this same flower that smiles todayTomorrow will be Dying."This first stanza displays Herrick's effective simplicity. Sarah Gilead states that the first line is the "distillation of the carpe diem message" as it states a mere fact of life: we are here for a limited time only and we must use our time wisely. It is the universality that has made Herrick's poetry last throughout the ages. He uses parallels that are everlasting. The rosebuds in this stanza symbolize the fruits of life - things we set out to gain in our lives. The "rosebuds" could be anything - they could be ordinary material objects such as a house, or something more sentimental like love. Herrick advises us though, to get them while we are young, for youth quickly dies. Therefore the rosebuds not only symbolize the objects and aspirations of life, but life its self...

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