Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sieze the day

I am indebted to fellow blogger Alan Sullivan for drawing my attention to this site. It is an erudite criticism of the sieze-the-day mentality. It is not the alacrity of the activity that he complains about, but what it is that is siezed.

He discusses the famous Robert Herrick poem, 'To the virgins':

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,

Old Time is still a flying:

And this same flower that smiles to day,

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 neerer 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, goe marry:

For having lost but once your prime,

You may for ever tarry.

This, if anything, is an injunction to sieze the day. But that interpretaion fails to contextualize the poem. Herrick was an Anglican priest, writing at a time when evryone was a Christian. Note that he does not inveigh the virgins to sleep around, but to marry.

If it were a simple folk song, we would not hold Herrick in such high regard. We must catch the allusions. Where would an Anglican pries go to for his references? Where else but to the King James Bible. We have virgins and a lamp. Obviously we are taken to the parable of wise and foolish virgins. The poem is a parable, and like all parables it is parabolic, its outside meaning cntains a hidden truth.

Jesus spoke in parables for a reason, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand" Mark 4:11-12.

The poem advocates early marriage. But marriage to a clergyman of the Church of England meant more than a sanctification of sex. The marriage of a man and a woman is an image of the heavenly Marriage of Christ and His Church.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins has them waiting for the appearance of the bridegroom; parabolically the second coming of Christ. The spiritual meaning of the poem is therefore to urge us to convert to Christ while we are young since if we wait too long, we "may for ever tarry."

No comments: