Robert Herrick (poet): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick, illustration based on Hesperides impression.
Born baptised 24 August 1591(1591-08-24)
Cheapside, London, England
Died buried 15 October 1674 (aged 83)
Dean Prior, Devon, England
Occupation Poet and clergyman

Robert Herrick (baptized 24 August 1591 – buried 15 October 1674[1]) was a 17th century English poet.



Early life

Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith, who fell out of a window when Robert was a year old (whether this was suicide remains unclear). The tradition that Herrick received his education at Westminster is groundless. It is more likely that (like his uncle's children) he attended The Merchant Taylors' School. In 1607 he became apprenticed to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, who was a goldsmith and jeweler to the king. The apprenticeship ended after only six years when Herrick, at age twenty-two, matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1617.[2] Robert Herrick became a member of the Sons of Ben, a group centered upon an admiration for the works of Ben Jonson. Herrick took holy orders in 1623, and became vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire, but lost his position because of his Royalist bent.

Civil War

Title page of Hesperides (1648)

In the wake of the English Civil War, his position was revoked on account of his refusal to make pledge to the Solemn League and Covenant. He then returned to London. During this time, he lived in Westminster, in London, depending on the charity of his friends and family. He spent some time preparing his lyric poems for publication, and had them printed in 1648 under the title Hesperides; or the Works both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, with a dedication to the Prince of Wales.

Restoration and later life

When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Herrick petitioned for his own restoration to his living. Perhaps King Charles felt kindly towards this genial man, who had written verses celebrating the births of both Charles II and his brother James before the Civil War. Herrick became the vicar of Dean Prior again in the summer of 1662 and lived there until his death in October 1674, at the ripe age of 83. His date of death is not known, but he was buried on 15 October. Herrick was a bachelor all his life, and many of the women he names in his poems are thought to be fictional. [3]

Poetic style and stature

His reputation rests on Hesperides, and the much shorter Noble Numbers, spiritual works, published together in 1648. He is well-known for his style and, in his earlier works, frequent references to lovemaking and the female body. His later poetry was more of a spiritual and philosophical nature. Among his most famous short poetical sayings are the unique monometers, such as "Thus I / Pass by / And die,/ As one / Unknown / And gone."

Herrick sets out his subject-matter in the poem he printed at the beginning of his collection, The Argument of his Book. He dealt with English country life and its seasons, village customs, complimentary poems to various ladies and his friends, themes taken from classical writings and a solid bedrock of Christian faith, not intellectualized but underpinning the rest.

Herrick never married, and none of his love-poems seem to connect directly with any one beloved woman. He loved the richness of sensuality and the variety of life, and this is shown vividly in such poems as Cherry-ripe, Delight in Disorder and Upon Julia’s Clothes.

The over-riding message of Herrick’s work is that life is short, the world is beautiful, love is splendid, and we must use the short time we have to make the most of it. This message can be seen clearly in To the Virgins, to make much of Time, To Daffodils, To Blossoms and Corinna going a-Maying, where the warmth and exuberance of what seems to have been a kindly and jovial personality comes over strongly.

The opening stanza in one of his more famous poems, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", is as follows:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

(In Elizabethan slang, "dying" referred both to mortality and to orgasm.) [4]This poem is an example of the carpe diem genre; the popularity of Herrick's poems of this kind helped revive the genre.

His poems were not widely popular at the time they were published. His style was strongly influenced by Ben Jonson, by the classical Roman writers, and by the poems of the late Elizabethan age. This must have seemed quite old-fashioned to an audience whose tastes were tuned to the complexities of the metaphysical poets such as John Donne and Andrew Marvell. His works were rediscovered in the early nineteenth century, and have been regularly printed ever since.

The Victorian poet Swinburne described Herrick as the greatest song writer...ever born of English race. It is certainly true that despite his use of classical allusions and names, his poems are easier for modern readers to understand than those of many of his contemporaries.

See also


  1. ^ Gosse, Edmund (1911). "Robert Herrick". Encyclopædia Britannica. Volume XIII (11th ed.). New York: Encyclopædia Britannica. pp. 389-390.  The source given for this encyclopedia article is Moorman, Frederic William (1910). Robert Herrick: A Biographical and Critical Study. T. Nelson. 
  2. ^ Herrick, Robert in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  3. ^ Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets, ed. Hugh Maclean (New York: Norton, 1974), p. 106.
  4. ^ Faints, fits, and fatalities from emotion in Shakespeare's characters: survey of the canon, Heaton, Kenneth W., BMJ 2006;333:1335-1338 (23 December), doi:10.1136/bmj.39045.690556.AE.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

If well thou hast begun, go on fore-right
It is the end that crowns us, not the fight.

Robert Herrick (baptized August 24, 1591- October 1674) was a 17th century English poet. Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith, who committed suicide when Robert was a year old.


Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
  • Here a little child I stand
    Heaving up my either hand.
    Cold as paddocks though they be,
    Here I lift them up to Thee,
    For a benison to fall
    On our meat, and on us all.
    • Noble Numbers (1648), "A Child's Grace"
  • Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
    Why do ye fall so fast?
    Your date is not so past
    But you may stay yet here awhile
    To blush and gently smile,
    And go at last.

Hesperides (1648)

Bid me to live, and I will live
Thy Protestant to be,
Or bid me love, and I will give
A loving heart to thee.
  • I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers:
    Of April, May, of June, and July flowers.
    I sing of Maypoles, Hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
    Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes.
    • "Argument of His Book"
  • What is a kiss? Why this, as some approve:
    The sure, sweet cement, glue, and lime of love.
    • "A Kiss"
  • Bid me to live, and I will live
    Thy Protestant to be,
    Or bid me love, and I will give
    A loving heart to thee.
  • Bid me despair, and I'll despair,
    Under that cypress tree;
    Or bid me die, and I will dare
    E'en Death, to die for thee.
  • Cherry ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry,
    Full and fair ones; come and buy!
    If so be you ask me where
    They do grow, I answer, there,
    Where my Julia's lips do smile;
    There's the land, or cherry-isle.
    • "Cherry Ripe"
  • If well thou hast begun, go on fore-right
    It is the end that crowns us, not the fight.
    • "The End"
  • Some asked me where the rubies grew,
    And nothing I did say;
    But with my finger pointed to
    The lips of Julia.
    • "The Rock of Rubies, and the Quarrie of Pearls"
  • Some asked how pearls did grow, and where?
    Then spoke I to my girl
    To part her lips, and showed them there
    The quarelets of pearl.
    • "The Rock of Rubies, and the Quarrie of Pearls"
  • Fall on me like a silent dew,
    Or like those maiden showers
    Which, by the peep of day, do strew
    A baptism o’er the flowers.
    • "To Music, to becalm his Fever"
  • A sweet disorder in the dress
    Kindles in clothes a wantonness.
    • "Delight in Disorder"
  • A winning wave, deserving note,
    In the tempestuous petticoat,
    A careless shoestring, in whose tie
    I see a wild civility,
    Do more bewitch me than when art
    Is too precise in every part.
    • "Delight in Disorder"
  • You say to me-wards your affection's strong;
    Pray love me little, so you love me long.
  • Night makes no difference 'twixt the Priest and Clerk;
    Joan as my Lady is as good i' the dark.
    • "No Difference i' th' Dark"
  • Give me a kiss, and to that kiss a score;
    Then to that twenty, add a hundred more:
    A thousand to that hundred: so kiss on,
    To make that thousand up a million.
    Treble that million, and when that is done,
    Let's kiss afresh, as when we first begun.
    • "To Anthea: Ah, My Anthea!"
  • 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.
    • "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time". Compare: "Gather the rose of love whilest yet is time", Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, book ii. canto xii. stanza 75. ; "Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds, before they be withered", Wisdom of Solomon, ii. 8.
  • Fair daffadills, we weep to see
    You haste away so soon:
    As yet the early rising sun
    Has not attained his noon.
    • "To Daffadills"
  • Thus woe succeeds a woe, as wave a wave.
    • "Sorrows Succeed". Compare: "One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, So fast they follow", William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act iv. Sc. 7.
  • Her pretty feet, like snails, did creep
    A little out, and then,
    As if they playèd at bo-peep,
    Did soon draw in again.
    • "To Mistress Susanna Southwell". Compare: "Her feet beneath her petticoat / Like little mice stole in and out", Sir John Suckling, "Ballad upon a Wedding".
  • Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,
    The shooting stars attend thee;
    And the elves also,
    Whose little eyes glow
    Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.
    • "The Night Piece to Julia"
  • I saw a flie within a beade
    Of amber cleanly buried.
    • "The Amber Bead" (published c. 1648). Compare: "Whence we see spiders, flies, or ants entombed and preserved forever in amber, a more than royal tomb", Francis Bacon, Historia Vitæ et Mortis; Sylva Sylvarum, Cent. i. Exper. 100.
  • Thus times do shift, each thing his turn does hold;
    New things succeed, as former things grow old.
    • "Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve"
  • We such clusters had
    As made us nobly wild, not mad;
    And yet each verse of thine
    Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine.
    • "Ode for Ben Jonson"
  • Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt;
    Nothing's so hard but search will find it out.
    • "Seek and Find". Compare: "Nil tam difficilest quin quærendo investigari possiet" (transalted as "Nothing is so difficult but that it may be found out by seeking"), Terence, Heautontimoroumenos, iv. 2, 8.
  • Before man's fall the rose was born,
    St. Ambrose says, without the thorn;
    But for man's fault then was the thorn
    Without the fragrant rose-bud born; But ne'er the rose without the thorn.
  • God doth not promise here to man that He
    Will free him quickly from his misery;
    But in His own time, and when He thinks fit,
    Then He will give a happy end to it.
    • "God's Time Must End Our Trouble"
  • Get up, sweet Slug-a-bed, and see
    The dew bespangling herb and tree.
    • "Corinna's Going A-Maying"
  • 'Tis sin,
    Nay, profanation to keep in.
    • "Corinna's Going A-Maying"
  • So when or you or I are made
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
    All love, all liking, all delight
    Lies drowned with us in endless night.
    • "Corinna's Going A-Maying"
  • Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
    Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
    That liquefaction of her clothes.
    Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
    That brave vibration each way free;
    Oh how that glittering taketh me!
    • "Upon Julia's Clothes"
  • Sweet, be not proud of those two eyes
    Which starlike sparkle in their skies;
    Nor be you proud that you can see
    All hearts your captives, yours yet free

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works written by or about:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address