Centuries apart Robert Herrick and Robert Frost wrote poems illustrating the brevity of life. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Herrick and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Frost are the two poems which address the limited time humanity, especially the time of youth, has to spend in this life. Both authors use nature to symbolize the shortness of life and the time spent in youth.
A symbol of nature utilized in both poems is a flower. In full bloom, a flower is in its most beautiful and prolific state. In youth, man is in the same state of a flower in bloom, resplendent and bountiful, but the time of beauty for a flower and youth is short. Herrrick states in lines 3-4 “And this same flower that smiles today,/ Tommorrow will be dying,”(728) which is a symbol of the shortness of youth. Frost in lines 3-4 “Her early leafs a flower;/ But only so an hour,”(989) also symbolizes the fleeting time of youth. In the beginning, a flower and youth are filled with vitality, but in a short amount of time the flower will wilt and die, and the youth will be an adult on a passage to death.
The second symbol used by Herrick and Frost is the day: youth is dawn, adulthood is midday, and death is the setting of the sun. From the day man is born, he is dying. In the second stanza, Herrick illustrates the shortness of a day; the higher in the sky the sun gets, the closer to setting it gets. In line 7, “So dawn goes down to day,” (990) Frost also addresses the limited time man has in life. Frosts choice of the word
down to describe the action of the sun helps to make the symbol of the day more clear, by illustrating the shortness of a day. Usually one thinks of the sun rising in the day not going down until after noon. As the sun rises, it is setting, and as man is born, he is dying.
Robert Herrick and Robert Frost use a flower and the day to symbolize the transient nature of youth. A flower, the day, and youth are fleeting states, which need to be enjoyed to its fullest. Youth is beautiful and the realization that life is short has not yet occurred. Shortly the flower will wilt, the day is spent, and man will be in the grave.