British Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse explored, in this painting, the theme of roses, early summer and fleeting moments found in the 17th century poem, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. There are two painting with the title, “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”. This is the second painting created in 1909, the first one was completed in 1908. (See below)
It is a lovely scene, holding a tranquility and grace that prompts us to pause, reflect and become part of the painting. The stream in the background, the green grass covered with flowers invite us to gather rosebuds, too.
There is always a surprise waiting for me when I look into the background of a painting. This painting has a Canadian connection, although it is mysterious as to how this painting ended up in Canada. It seems that the painting was lost for nearly a century and was found on the wall of an old Canadian farmhouse. A couple who bought the farmhouse asked that the painting remain with the house. They thought it looked nice on the wall. Fast forward thirty years, the painting was discovered when the couple asked an art dealer for an appraisal.
Of course, we will never know how this painting made the journey from Britain to Canada. Perhaps there are narratives that need to remain safe in the folds of history.
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick – 1591-1674
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow 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.