Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Robert Herrick - the tempestuous petticoat, a careless shoe-string

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was a parish priest who wrote a book of delicate, light-hearted love poems, the Hesperides (1648). I suspect he's best known for his mild-mannered smuttiness, the reason he ended the book like this:

To his Book's end this last line he'd have plac't,
Jocond his Muse was; but his life was chaste.

I'd like to put the mock lament "His Farewell to Sack" here, but it's a bit long. A fragment:

Let others drink thee freely; and desire
Thee and their lips espous'd; while I admire,
and love thee, but not taste thee.

Herrick was a jolly fellow. How about "Delight in Disorder":

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A Lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthrals the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuff neglectful and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when Art
Is too precise in every part.

Read it aloud: this poem is not as smooth as Drayton. "Kindles in clothes a wantonness" or "The tempestuous petticoat" - I can hear the "wild civility" the poet sees. Any Herrick collection will have two dozen poems as good as this one.

A bonus Herrick poem for a lucky reader:

The Coming of Good Luck

So Good-luck came, and on my roof did light,
Like noiseless Snow; or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are, by the Sun-beams, tickled by degrees.

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