At the turn of the seventeenth century, poets began writing on the courtly themes of beauty, love, and loyalty. These poets were known as the cavalier poets of the late Renaissance period. Robert Herrick, one of the leading cavalier poets, expresses the theme carpe diem, meaning, "to seize the day," in his famous poem, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time." This theme became especially predominant when literature began shifting away from humanism and opened itself up to the perspective of the lives and feelings of an everyday commoner. The carpe diem theme suggests living for the moment and making the most out of life. Instead of viewing Herrick's poem as a desperate attempt to persuade a young woman to sleep with him, I see "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" as an appealing perspective on showing the reader the importance of appreciating life as it comes and how fast it can fade away.
In Herrick's poem, the speaker tells the "Virgins" to "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" because the flower "that smiles today/ Tomorrow will be dying." In this introduction of the poem, he uses the image of a rosebud's beauty to signify the magnificence of life. He also implies that youth can disappear so suddenly, just as a rosebud can wither and die in a matter of days. The first stanza appears to be directed toward a person in the prime of their life. .
The next stanza presents another comparison, where the sudden rise and fall of the sun is associated with the concept of how quickly life can pass by. This comparison is especially brilliant in finding a common knowledge with the reader. Everyone uses the sun as a guide of time. Therefore, Herrick uses this image in order to draw the obvious conclusion that our youth is much like the sun, in that our lives represent a certain period of time, a small amount of time for that matter. "The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun/The higher he's a-getting" describes an individual's life as it is reaching its prime years.