The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Lesson Plan Contributed by Joe Knap, Bay High School, Bay Village, OH


Using rock music to introduce literary themes is an effective way of reaching students.  Pink Floyd’s “Time” illustrates the carpe diem theme and can be used either as an individual work or as a companion piece to other literary works containing the same theme. The song presents the concept in readily identifiable terms to students without taking on a didactic tone. Containing various poetic devices and significant sound effects which enhance the meaning, this song will provide a full class period of intelligent discussion.


The student will be able to:

  1. Recognize and discuss the carpe diem theme of the song;
  2. Make connections between the song and his/her own life;
  3. Identify the poetic devices of internal rhyme, alliteration, and extended metaphor;
  4. Explain how the music compliments the meaning of the lyrics;
  5. Recognize the connection between the carpe diem theme of the song and a work of literature (optional).


CD/tape player; music and lyrics for “Time.”

Time Frame

1-2 class periods depending on whether connections are made to other works of literature.


Suggested for English students, grades 7-12.


Preliminary discussion may be held on such questions as, “Are you ever bored?” or “Is there anything exciting happening around here?” Distribute the lyrics to each student. Advise students to listen carefully to the beginning of the song before playing it. Class discussion should focus on the following points:

  1. The alarm clocks’ ringing, the ticking of the clocks, and the ominous chords all contribute to a sense of urgency regarding the passage of time. The listener is immediately advised to “wake-up,” and the ticking of the clock resembles a heartbeat (E.A. Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart").
  2. The first two stanzas address those who hang around their hometown complaining that nothing is happening. The boredom and monotony of this lifestyle is emphasized by the repetition of sound through alliteration ("dull day") and the internal rhyme (""). Contrasting images exist ("sunshine...rain," “life...kill").
  3. The extended metaphor compares life to a race, where if “you missed the starting gun,” no matter how fast “you run and you run,” you will get lapped by the sun and be “shorter of breath and one day closer to death.” (In Leo Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need,” the main character loses a similar race, dying as the sun sets.)
  4. The impact of the carpe diem theme is strengthened in the final stanza where the songwriter acknowledges his own mortality. Ironically, the plans that came to “half a page of scribbled lines” describes the extent of the lyrics, and on cue the song ends with the final line, “The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to day.”


Students should be able to make connections in written or oral form between the themes of “Time” and other works of literature they have studied. In addition, students can be asked to select other works of literature, art, film, music, etc. with similar themes.

Selected Recording

“Time” by Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon/Capitol, 1973)