R Robert Frost

Carpe Diem by Robert Frost

‘Carpe Diem’ by Robert Frost is a poem that encourages the reader to live in the present and comments on people’s tendency to focus on the past and the future instead.

Carpe Diem by Robert Frost Visual Representation

Robert Frost’s ‘Carpe Diem‘ encourages the reader to “seize the day” by living more involved in the present, rather than focusing on the past and the future. Frost’s unique use of language makes for a profound and beautiful poem. However, the poem also recognizes that this can be difficult, as the present is often too busy and overwhelming for people to enjoy. The poem argues that most of our life exists in the past and the future. Despite this, the poem argues that it is important to try and enjoy the present to the best of your ability.

Carpe Diem by Robert Frost


Summary

Robert Frost’s ‘Carpe Diem‘ examines people’s tendency to live in the past and future, rather than appreciate the present.

The poem begins with a personification of Age watching as two children walk by. The narrator states that Age is unsure whether the children are heading home, to town, or to the church. Once they are out of earshot, Age wishes the children happiness and hopes that they will “seize the day”. The narrator of the poem then states that Age has given poetry the burden of warning lovers against the danger of being full of happiness, but not realizing it. The poem ends with the narrator stating that life lives less in the present and more in the past. This is because the present is often too overwhelming and fast-paced for people to really enjoy it.

You can read the full poem here.

Themes

The main themes of the poem center around the importance of living in the present. The poem also delves into the fact that the present can often be too overwhelming and busy to fully enjoy. While it is important to seize the day and live in the present, the narrator also recognizes that this is easier said than done.

Structure and Form

The poem is not broken up into multiple stanzas and instead is just one long stanza. ‘Carpe Diem‘ is also a free verse poem, meaning that it does not have a set rhyming scheme. The poem utilizes literary devices such as personification to apply human-like characteristics to a lot of the abstract concepts in the poem. This makes it easier for the reader to garner an understanding of the message that the speaker is trying to convey.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-8

Age saw two quiet children

Go loving by at twilight,

(…)

Till they were out of hearing

To bid them both be happy.

The poem begins with a personification of “Age” watching two children as they pass by towards an unknown destination. This scenario is meant to be a metaphor: Age is unsure which direction the children are going, which symbolizes that the children have multiple possible futures. It’s also interesting to note that Age waits until the children cannot hear him to wish them well. The narrator states that this is because they are strangers, which symbolizes that the children are still young and have not “aged” yet.

Lines 9-11

“Be happy, happy, happy,

And seize the day of pleasure.”

The age-long theme is Age’s.

When the children are out of earshot, Age wishes them happiness on their journey, and advises them to continue to “seize the day of pleasure”. Since the children are still young and unaffected by age, the personification of Age encourages them to remain this way. The narrator also states that the “seize the day” theme belongs to Age itself. This is because people’s fear of the passage of time is what makes them feel as though they need to appreciate the present.

Lines 12-18

‘Twas Age imposed on poems

Their gather-roses burden

(…)

With happiness should have it.

And yet not know they have it.

In the next portion of the poem, the narrator states that Age is the one that has given poetry the responsibility of warning others to recognize the happiness they experience in the present. This is a metaphor for expressions such as “carpe diem”. Through language, human beings express their desire to live more in the present, despite the fact that we often dwell on the past and future.

Lines 19-26

But bid life seize the present?

It lives less in the present

(…)

Too crowding, too confusing-

Too present to imagine.

In the final section of the poem, the narrator states that life does not really exist in the present. Though we may want to live in the present, it is often too overwhelming for us to process. Instead, people dwell more on the past and worry about the future.

About Robert Frost

Considered to be one of America’s most well-known and beloved poets, Robert Frost is well renowned for writing classics such as ‘The Road Not Taken‘ and ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay‘. Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco. Throughout his life, people around the world loved and celebrated Frost’s poetry. He continues to be an incredibly popular poet even today. Frost’s focus on universal and relatable themes surrounding the human experience has cemented him as one of the great American poets. 

Similar Poetry 

If you like ‘Carpe Diem,’ you should check out this similar poetry:

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Carpe Diem by Robert Frost Visual Representation
About
Christina studied a degree in English Literature with a Minor in Professional Writing at Concordia in Canada. She is deeply passionate about the world of literature, with a particular affinity for poetry.
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