When I talk about this project, I notice the first thing many people say is, “Oh, you mean like Citizen Kane? Well, actually, no. I hardly ever think about Citizen Kane, but that poem by Herrick has followed me around for a long time.
Enter: ratiocination process. I have no fear of becoming Citizen Kane, and even when I was young, naive, and still harbored fantasies about becoming rich and famous, I never thought about becoming a rich newspaper
magnate. In fact, I never thought about becoming a rich and famous male anything. For obvious reasons. Even fantasies have to have some furthest stretch of the imagination possibility.
Those virgins gathering rosebuds, though — they had a lot of possibility in my imagination. Especially, I think, when I was young. Because what is it Herrick is warning the virgins about really? Becoming an old maid. And if you think about it, what he’s warning them about is even starker than that. Nowhere does he mention marriage, ha, ha. He is warning them that they may grow old without ever experiencing sexual pleasure.
Was that a threat that meant something to me in my virginal youth? I’m afraid it may have. No so much later, of course. I think there does come a time when almost all women realize that sexual pleasure is pretty available. But the fear remains. Many people have noticed that this poem could be taken to mean that everyone — male, female, young, middle-aged — should be gathering those rosebuds as fast as they can. And that the rosebuds don’t always stand for sexual pleasure.
This long and roundabout stream of consciousness gets to the answer. What do I mean rosebuds? I mean what can be gathered: challenges, satisfactions, creations, deliverances. And i mean it’s a human imperative. Therefore: not you’re only as young as you feel or any of that nonsense.
If you’re alive, look to the rosebuds.