In metaphysical poetry, the traditional theme of memento mori, or the reminder of death, was replaced by the theme of carpe diem, or the celebration of life and the present moment.
The end of glory for memento mori
During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, which preceded the metaphysical era, memento mori was a popular theme in art and literature. The focus on death and the transitory nature of life was seen as a reminder of the importance of preparing for the afterlife and living a virtuous life on earth.
However, by the time of the metaphysical poets in the 17th century, there was a shift towards a more secular and humanistic view of the world. This shift was reflected in the replacement of memento mori with the theme of carpe diem, which celebrated the joys of life and the present moment rather than dwelling on the inevitability of death.
The raise of new motto crowded
Metaphysical poets like John Donne and Andrew Marvell rejected the traditional emphasis on death and instead focused on the joys of life and the importance of living fully in the present. They urged their readers to seize the day and make the most of every moment, rather than dwelling on the inevitability of death.
In poems like Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” the speaker urges his lover to “seize the day” and enjoy the pleasures of love while they still can, rather than waiting for time to pass them by. Similarly, Donne’s “The Sun Rising” celebrates the power of love and the beauty of the present moment, urging readers to “go and catch a falling star” and make the most of every opportunity.
Pitch of Carpe Diem
The phrase “carpe diem” became popularized through its use in literature, particularly in poetry. It has been used by writers such as Horace, who wrote “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero” (seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future) in his Odes, and by Robert Herrick, who wrote “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, / Old Time is still a-flying; / And this same flower that smiles today / Tomorrow will be dying” in his poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
The phrase has also been popularized in popular culture, including in movies, TV shows, and music. For example, the character John Keating, played by Robin Williams, in the movie “Dead Poets Society” encourages his students to “carpe diem” and seize the day. Additionally, the phrase has been used in popular songs such as “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman and “Carpe Diem” by the band Green Day.
The replacement of memento mori with carpe diem in metaphysical poetry represented a shift towards a more humanistic and secular view of the world, one that celebrated the beauty and complexity of life rather than dwelling on its transitory nature.
Covid-19 and the back of Memento Mori
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the concept of “memento mori”, particularly among younger generations. This can be seen in the rise of various trends and practices that encourage people to embrace their mortality and to live more intentionally. For example, there has been a surge in popularity of tattoos featuring skulls or other symbols of death, as well as the popularity of books, podcasts, and social media accounts that explore death and dying.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the resurgence of interest in “memento mori”, as it has forced many people to confront their own mortality and the fragility of life. This has led to a greater appreciation of the importance of living in the present moment and cherishing the time that we have.