So, a while back I saw a CFP for a conference about [major theme of my dissertation] in the works of Robert Herrick. OK, I thought. I like Herrick. I've never written anything about Herrick, but I'm sure I could. Maybe I'll just get the complete works out of the library and see what grabs me.
1,402 poems later, I have reached two conclusions: 1) Herrick wrote a heck of a lot more poems about farting and body odor than I'd ever realized (neither of these is the subject of my dissertation); 2) I don't, actually, know what I would say if I were going to write an essay about Herrick. With a few obvious exceptions such as "Corinna" and "The Hock-Cart," which I expect everyone will write about, he just doesn't seem to lend himself to analysis -- at least, not for me. But he is a delight.
So, a random selection of lesser-known Herrick, without commentary.
Upon Pink an ill-fac'd Painter. Epigram.
To paint the Fiend, Pink would the Devill see;
And so he may, if he'll be rul'd by me:
Let but Pink's face i'th'Looking-glasse be showne,
And Pink may paint the Devill's by his owne.
The parting verse, the feast there ended
Loth to depart, but yet at last, each one
Back must now go to's habitation:
Not knowing thus much, when we once do sever,
Whether or no, that we shall meet here ever.
And for my self, since time a thousand cares
And griefs hath fil'de upon my silver hairs;
'Tis to be doubted whether I next yeer,
Or no, shall give ye a re-meeting here.
If die I must, then my last vow shall be,
You'l with a tear or two, remember me,
Your sometime Poet; but if fates do give
Me longer date, and more fresh springs to live:
Oft as your field, shall her old age renew,
Herrick shall make the meddow-verse for you.
Wantons we are; and though our words be such,
Our Lives do differ from our Lines by much.
Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve
Down with the Rosemary, and so
Down with the Baies, & misletoe:
Down with the Holly, Ivie, all,
Wherewith ye drest the Christmas Hall:
That so the superstitious find
Not one least Branch there left behind:
For look how many leaves there be
Neglected there (maids trust to me)
So many Goblins you shall see.
Along the dark, and silent night,
With my Lantern, and my Light,
And the tinkling of my Bell,
Thus I walk, and this I tell:
Death and dreadfullnesse call on,
To the gen'rall Session;
To whose dismal Barre, we there
All accompts must come to cleeere:
Scores of sins w'ave made her many,
Wip't out few, (God knowes) if any.
Rise ye Debters then, and fall
To make paiement, while I call.
Ponder this, when I am gone;
By the clock 'tis almost One.
According to one of my instructors in undergrad, who was a fountain of seventeenth-century gossip, Herrick kept a pet pig that drank beer. This has nothing to do with anything, but it makes me happy.