carpe diem

carpe diem kär´pĕ dē´ĕm [key], a descriptive term for literature that urges readers to live for the moment [from the Latin phrase seize the day, used by Horace]. The theme, which was widely used in 16th- and 17th-century love poetry, is best exemplified by a familiar stanza from Robert Herrick's 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
Tomorrow will be dying.
Shakespeare's version of the theme takes the following form in Twelfth Night:
What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth has present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come and kiss me sweet and twenty;
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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