- Carpe Diem
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"Carpe Diem" is a Latin phrase that translates into English as "seize the day", or, more roughly, get up and do something - don't let life pass you by. As a very appropriate Scottish proverb puts it,
Be happy while you're living,
For you're a long time dead.
Carpe Diem poems typically fall into a few major categories - advice, entreaties, and encouragement. Advice is generally by the old, telling the young not to waste their youth. Entreaties are generally by gentlemen to their lady friends, telling them, in the American vernacular, not to play so hard to get. Encouragement generally is a poem in which the poet tell his friends something like "let's have fun now because in heaven there is no beer" (OK, yes, I paraphrased that from a polka).
One of the best descriptions of a Carpe Diem poem is actually in the movie Dead Poet's Society, in which Robin Williams has a novel way of getting his class to appreciate and understand Robert Herrick's To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time. The best giver of carpe diem advice, by the way is probably a toss-up between Henley and Houseman and Herrick.
A related category is Inspiration.
- To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick
The poem used in the movie Dead Poet's Society
- Drinking Song by John Fletcher
Drink up, advises Fletcher, because:
There is no drinking after death.
- Go, Lovely Rose by Edmund Waller
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retir'd:
- Arise by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
WHY sit ye idly dreaming all the day,
While the golden, precious hours flit away?
- To Helen in a Huff by Nathaniel Parker Willis
The cup that is longest untasted
May be with our bliss running o'er,
- From far, from eve and morning by A.E. Housman
Simple and almost breathlessly delivered.
- To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
A classic entreaty:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
- My dove, my beautiful one by James Joyce
A brief entreaty, deftly done.
- The Recruit by A.E. Housman
Come you home a hero,
Or come not home at all,
- A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
- Coronemus nos Rosis antequam marcescant by Thomas Jordan
In frolics dispose your pounds, shillings, and pence,
For we shall be nothing a hundred years hence.
- Song: to Celia by Ben Jonson
Another classic poet's entreaty.
- O Gather me the Rose by William Ernest Henley
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it.
- Brittle Beauty by Henry Howard
Thou farest as fruit that with the frost is taken:
Today ready ripe, tomorrow all to-shaken
- We live in deeds ... by Philip James Bailey
Bailey wants us to stop watching the clock and start listening to "heart-throbs"
- My Sweetest Lesbia by Thomas Campion
This is in the style of the Roman poet Catullus, a rather bawdy poet whose works are generally toned down in translation. Catullus, if he was anything like his poems, certainly seized the day
- Song: Persuasions to Enjoy by Thomas Carew
Another song to yet another Celia.
- A Little While by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
There is a strong carpe diem theme in both Rossetti's poems and his striking paintings.
- Since Those We Love and Those We Hate by William Ernest Henley
The only carpe diem I know that has a sequel (Over the Hills and Far Away).
- Loveliest of Trees by A. E. Housman
Perhaps a carpe diem in slow motion.
- Corinna's Going A-Maying by Robert Herrick
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colors through the air.
- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald
The longest carpe diem poem, this one is at once an entreaty, advice and encouragement.
- Serenade by Edward Coote Pinkney
Nay, Lady, from thy slumbers break,
And make this darkness gay,