Gathering rosebuds, or carpe diem

As I pondered this month’s theme (gathering), a line poetry kept popping into my head. Which is weird, ’cause I don’t read (and certainly don’t write) a lot of poetry. But this particular poem was quoted in one of my favorite movies, Dead Poet’s Society. Does it relate to the theme? I’ll let you decide.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
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 poem was written by Robert Herrick in the 17th century as part of the carpe diem genre. And Dead Poets was all about carpe diem (What, you’ve never seen Dead Poets’ Society? Stop reading right now, and go watch. The post will be here when you’re done.).

December puts me in a weird mood. Almost a funk. It’s cold, dark, and (dare I say it) a little dreary in Pittsburgh. I sit back and look at the list, written in January, of the things I wanted to accomplish. And all too often, I focus on the things I didn’t get done.

But what if I turned it around? What if I said, “Dang, look at everything I accomplished!” And I bet some of the things that remain undone are the result of seizing an opportunity that arose during the year. An opportunity that would only come around once. Instead of saying “Oh, I wanted to do X, Y, and Z and I didn’t get Z done,” what if I realized I didn’t get Z done because I’d seized the opportunity to do something else, like M? And after all, Z rarely has an expiration date, right? So if Z is really important, there’s always next year.

I suspect that if we did that – focused on the times when we carpe diem-ed – instead of dwelling on our “misses,” we’d all be happier. So there’s my challenge folks. Go forth into 2016 and gather those roses.

Carpe diem

Mary Sutton | @mary_sutton73


Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog again - one of these days.

10 thoughts on “Gathering rosebuds, or carpe diem”

  1. Mary, that’s such a weird coincidence. Must be the December gloom. (Although it’s a psychic gloom; here in Denver we have another perfect azure sky.) I read fiction for an hour every morning before the sun comes us. I’m reading a gorgeous steampunk novel by Kevin J Anderson and lamenting, as I do so often, that I’m not as good an author as whomever I’m reading at the moment. And then I thought, “Geez, I only have about 30 more years to write ALL THE BOOKS!” And it doesn’t seem like nearly enough.

    But you know what? I’ve written way more books than many other people. And some of them are pretty good. So your reframing was exactly what I needed to hear today.

    Now would you just repost this directly into my brain every day? ;-D


  2. Lovely post. Glum here in Alaska as well. Only 18 days until solstice and slogging through mostly with baked goods and naps. Trying to perk up with accomplishing one very small very visual thing a day because the visual will remind me when I walk by of my accomplishments.


  3. I LOVE “Carpe diem-ed” !!! Yes, I think you’re totally right. It’s so easy to focus on the negative–why is that??–but focusing on the positive is so much more productive. Celebrate the accomplishments and celebrate the failures too. Maybe there’s a reason Z didn’t get done. Because two roads diverge in the woods, and sometimes one leads to Z and the other leads to M…


  4. I love the idea of gathering roses, and am very grateful you said nothing about thorns, which we hand ourselves plenty of naturally.

    All my life I’ve been known as the member of my family who most loves Christmas. As I grow older it’s sometimes harder to live up to that moniker. Somewhere the joy shifted to an obligation to make the season as perfect as possible for everyone else. I need to let go of what I don’t, or can’t, accomplish and relish the roses.



  5. Cynthia, I was so glad when The Girl (15) and I watched DPS she loved it as much as I did. Glad I gave you something to think about.

    Becky, yes the sun is shining(!) here, too so definitely psychic gloom. And yes, to date I’ve written 4 novels (a drawer novel, 2 polished, and 1 in progress) plus 6 novella-length words in my middle grade series. And when you think of how many people go from “gee, I’d like to write a book” to “the end” we are all definitely part of an elite group!

    Keenan, visual is key. Seeing something is so much more powerful than just “knowing” it.

    Sue, yes those lists are killer aren’t they? But if you lay “to-do” next to “already done,” it’s less daunting.

    Diane, I’m almost positive I picked that up from someone. And I don’t “carpe diem” nearly enough. I know for me, I almost feel boastful focusing on accomplishments (I wrote a book) and it’s a (false) humility to say, “but look at all the stuff I failed at.” Even rejections are worth celebrating because at least you put yourself out there, right? And there is usually a very good reason Z didn’t get done, but all we can think about is — Z didn’t get done.


  6. Peg, yes. When my mother died, that left me as the only person who wanted to keep “the holiday spirit” going. But I spent so much time worrying if everyone else was happy, so I didn’t enjoy it as much myself. I’ve let that go over the years.

    Ignore the thorns and gather the roses anyway.


  7. This is such a great post, Mary! I *love* the Dead Poets Society–such a beautiful and inspirational movie, and that poem definitely embraces the theme of carpe diem (and also gatherings!). What a great idea: focus on the carpe diem-ed rather than the misses. This is timely as I’ve just come to accept that I’m not going to meet my 2015 Goodreads reading challenge (unless I devour a slew of picture books in December), but boy has it been a fun year! 🙂


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