The Poetry of Robert Herrick

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11625

"Carpe diem" has nothing to do with fishing or repetitive motion syndrome. It is a philosophy popularized by Robert Herrick's poetry that still carries through today. Write your own "Carpe diem" list!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Do you know what the term "carpe diem" means? You might be surprised!

"Carpe diem" is Latin for the phrase, "Seize the day."

This idea of making the most of one's life and not wasting time may seem like a modern concept in our multi-tasking world, but it actually has been a common theme in poetry for centuries.

Poets were constantly using this concept in poetry about love or death, and sometimes poems that combined the two subjects to show that people ought not let time slip away from them — they should seize on the moment to live life to the fullest.

Robert Herrick

Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less.

Robert Herrick was a seventeenth-century poet who used the carpe diem theme in much of his poetry. The speaker in many of his poems is continually trying to woo a young woman. While Herrick wrote poems commemorating family members and political figures of the era, he is best-known for his love poetry that often stressed the fast pace of life and how easily time could slip away from a couple if they dallied too long and did not act on their attraction to each other.

Despite Herrick's repeated use of the themes of love and carpe diem in his poetry, he never married. Herrick even commented on his decision to remain a bachelor in one of his poems, saying he would not take a wife because she would "crucify" him. Herrick may have enjoyed the theme of love, but he saved it for his poems!

To learn more about Herrick's life, read Life of Robert Herrick, by Anniina Jokinen. As you read, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper. When you have finished answering the questions, discuss your responses with your parent or teacher:

  • What happened to Herrick's father when Robert was only a year old?
  • What was Herrick's initial occupation?
  • Which writer became Herrick's mentor?
  • What profession did Herrick enter in 1623?
  • Why did Herrick lose his job for 13 years?

Now that you have learned about Herrick's biography and his use of the theme of carpe diem, move on to the Got It? section to read two of Herrick's well-known poems and watch a video of a performance of a Herrick poem.

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