Gathering magnolia while I may …


Magnolia at its best. It’s not a flower that looks particularly lovely in decay. Su Leslie 2018

The title of this post was inspired by the line “gather ye rosebuds while ye may”.

It’s one of those quotes I’ve heard often but never thought much about. But in the interests of fair and accurate acknowledgement of the work of authors I quote, I bring you the poem To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick; first published in 1648.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
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 forever tarry.

I can’t say I agree with “… that age is best which is the first …”

ZimmerBitch grew out of a firm belief that I’ve improved with age (certainly in terms of my own happiness). But Herrick was writing at a time when average life expectancy was around 35; where around a third of all babies born died in infancy or childhood. Women’s lives were constrained by lack of education and legal rights; marriage was an expectation, and for most, an economic necessity.

So to young women now I’d say, of course seize the day, but don’t be persuaded that only rosebuds have value.

Unlike magnolia — which really do have very short lives.


Image: Su Leslie 2018

And PS: don’t be ashamed of your thorns — you are allowed to protect yourself against all predators.

A rather longer and more digressive post than usual for Friday Flowers.

Happy weekend everyone.


21 thoughts on “Gathering magnolia while I may …

  1. I must declare I liked very much your digression, Su. Once in a while we need to stop and reflect. While I agree with you that for all those in our modern age fortunate enough to grow old in relatively good health and safety there is room for spiritual growth and true enjoyment, there is still the dark side for the majority of people who experience the gradual and inexorable decay of their mental and physical capabilities. I believe that this is what the poet Robert Herrick had in mind when he wrote this lovely poem. Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Su!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hear
    This is the best reflection I have seen on this gather ye rosebuds piece. The simple yet deep messages and the connection the magnolia and touch of personal – all done with succinctness – you say long for you but I say succinct and not verbose (and thx for that) and…
    💜note about thorns and this:
    “don’t be persuaded that only rosebuds have value.”


  3. You got quite serious there, Su, from those beautiful magnolia flowers. 🙂 Nice to see connections, though. Sometimes these days when we say so many people die of cancer, I think that in the “olden days”, people didn’t live long enough to die of cancer and they died of many diseases that we no longer have to contend with. Much food for thought.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. So true about the changing causes of death, and modern medicine. The interesting thing, looking at historical statistics and my own family history is how incredibly high infant and child mortality skewed the population distribution. If people survived childhood, and then a few other key events (childbirth, epidemic) they actually had quite a good chance of living long lives. I’ve found a good few ancestors born in the 18th century who made it into their 80s. Hope you have a great weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Two absolutely beautiful photographs of very white magnolia. And yes they do look better when new and fresh and undamaged by the browning of the frost, and yes they don’t last long, but they are so very lovely and so much a part of spring especially here in Cornwall. Gather as many photos as you like as long as you share them with us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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