John William Waterhouse: Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May (1909)


(Private Collection)

A painting by the English artist John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). This painting is one of two versions with the same title. The title of both pieces is the first line from the poem "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", written by the poet Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674):

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
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
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,
You may forever tarry.

The theme of the poem (and with that the painting) is Carpe diem - 'seize the day': enjoy life - the flower which blooms today will be dying tomorrow. Painting from 1909.

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