Question: How does Robert Herrick develop the Theme of transitoriness or ephemerality of human life on earth? Discuss.


Robert Herrick (1591-1674) belongs to the Cavalier group of poetry in the 17th century. In his famous short lyric “To Daffodils” here he has used the theme of the transitoriness of human life on earth.  To develop the theme of the temporality of human life on earth the poet has used some unique techniques in the following way.

Selecting subject matter about the ephemerality

The subject matter of Herrick’s poem is about transitoriness or ephemerality of human life. Transitoriness or ephemerality means the quality or state of being transitory. The opening lines of the poem address the theme of the poem. Here, Herrick asserts the short existence of human life.

“Fair daffodils, we weep to see

You haste away so soon.”

Showing the similarity between human and daffodils

The poet has personified the daffodils and shown a similarity between human beings and daffodils. He compares human life with the life span of daffodils. The first line of the poem indicates the short-lived nature of life and the quick passage of time. The poet signifies his concept of the ephemerality of life throughout the poem that like the flowers, humans have a very short life in this world.

More Notes of Poetry

Using simile

Simile is a direct comparison between two dissimilar things by using as, like, and so on. In the poem “To Daffodils” there is a great example of simile to widen the theme of the poem. The poet laments that we who are like beautiful daffodils have a short life in this world. As the daffodils grow very hasty and die too quickly. This fact is symbolically referred to by the spring season and the duration of spring is completely comparable to the youth of human life. From this poem, the young fellows should take the lesson of quickly passing the time of life and lead a very pure from the young stage of life.

Using imagery

Imagery is the collective use of images in which the literary work is life-like to the mind of the readers. In the poem, Herrick skillfully has used this literary device to glorify the theme of the temporality of human beings on earth. Summer’s rain and pearls of morning’s dews- by this imagery Herrick has wanted to reveal the idea that Summer’s rain and pearls of morning’s dews pass away too soon. Like the imagery, human beings also have a short existence. Summer’s rain which comes for a short time and the morning’s dews which vanishes away and never return-

“Like to the Summer’s rain;

Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,

Ne’er to be found again.”

Representing the fleeting nature of time

There is a popular proverb that is “Time and tide wait for none”. By this proverb, we can understand how valuable time is. The fleeting nature of time is represented by the poem “To Daffodils”. By this fleeting nature of time, we are always going to death from birth onwards-

“As quick a growth to meet decay,

As you, or anything we die…”


In fine, we can terminate that from this poem we get a definite melancholic tone about the fact that the existence of every living being in this world is short and death is inevitable.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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