What is Carpe Diem in Literature?

What is Carpe Diem in Literature?

Carpe Diem is a Latin phrase meaning “seize the day”. This phrase is taken from one of Horace’s Odes. Now it has become the term for a common literary motif. More specifically, it is common in lyrical poetry. Let’s see what this literary motif all about and where it is employed.

In carpe diem poetry, the speaker puts emphasis on the fact that life is short and the time is fleeting. He insists on his auditor to make the most of the present situation. So, the concept or theme is basically touching or moving.

A beautiful example of this concept is well expressed in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, 1590-96. There is brevity of physical beauty and the finality of death is expressed in the image of a rose in the line II. Xii. 74-75; “Gather therefore the Rose, whilst yet is prime”. Later on, in the 17th century, this sense of carpe diem is seen in Robert Herrick’s poem “Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may”. Edmund Waller sets the similar tone in “Go, Lovely Rose.”

Though the poetry of such kind is very complex but powerfully communicates the poignant desperation and sadness, and the pursuit of pleasure under the limit of unavoidable death. The best example of this carpe diem motif can be seen in Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress (1681). It is also seen in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Edward FitzGerald.

It is really challenging task and sometimes it turns out to be sad to accomplish the task within the limited span of time. And therefore, carpe diem poetry leaves poignant effect on the reader.