Tuesday

Sep. 24, 2002

To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time

by Robert Herrick

TUESDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2002
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time," by Robert Herrick.

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 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 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 for ever tarry.


On this day in 1930, Noel Coward's play Private Lives opened in London, with Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in the lead roles. The play features the second most famous balcony scene in theater, in which a husband and wife who have divorced each other discover that they've reserved adjacent suites in the same French hotel. The most famous line: "Extraordinary how potent cheap liquor is."

It's the birthday of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1896). He's the author of Tender is the Night, The Jazz Age, and The Great Gatsby, in which Nick Carraway says: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired." In 1922, when he was living on Long Island, Fitzgerald was introduced to the columnist Ring Lardner, and for the next two years, they spent a lot of time together. Fitzgerald got Maxwell Perkins to publish a collection of Lardner's writing; he suggested some of the pieces he thought should be included, and came up with the collection's title, How to Write Short Stories. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda had one daughter, Scottie, who grew up in a whirl of parties and excursions, and then was sent away to boarding school when her mother checked herself into a mental hospital and her father couldn't keep her at home anymore. Fitzgerald wrote her many letters; in one, he wrote: "Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat…the redeeming things are not 'happiness and pleasure' but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle." By the time she was a student at Vassar, Scottie had stopped reading the letters altogether; she said it was too painful. She took the envelopes, ripped them open, and dumped them out on the table to see if there were any checks in them. Then she stuffed the letters into a drawer. Fitzgerald said "An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next and the schoolmasters of ever afterward." He was a great "maker-of-phrases," and he was a great journalist of his time. He wrote about Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic: "In the spring of '27, something bright and alien flashed across the sky. A young Minnesota who seemed to have nothing to do with his generation did a heroic thing, and for a moment people set down their glasses in country clubs and speakeasies and thought their old best dreams."


Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »