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A Selection From The Lyrical Poems Of Robert Herrick

Part 4 out of 4

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And ask'd me, when
False man would be content
To pay again
What God and Nature lent.

An hour-glass,
In which were sands but few,
As he did pass,
He shew'd,--and told me too
Mine end near was;--
And so away he flew.

*236*

MEN MIND NO STATE IN SICKNESS

That flow of gallants which approach
To kiss thy hand from out the coach;
That fleet of lackeys which do run
Before thy swift postilion;
Those strong-hoof'd mules, which we behold
Rein'd in with purple, pearl, and gold,
And shed with silver, prove to be
The drawers of the axle-tree;
Thy wife, thy children, and the state
Of Persian looms and antique plate:
--All these, and more, shall then afford
No joy to thee, their sickly lord.

*237*

LIFE IS THE BODY'S LIGHT

Life is the body's light; which, once declining,
Those crimson clouds i' th' cheeks and lips leave shining:-
Those counter-changed tabbies in the air,
The sun once set, all of one colour are:
So, when death comes, fresh tinctures lose their place,
And dismal darkness then doth smutch the face.

*238*

TO THE LADY CREWE, UPON THE DEATH OF HER CHILD

Why, Madam, will ye longer weep,
Whenas your baby's lull'd asleep?
And, pretty child, feels now no more
Those pains it lately felt before.

All now is silent; groans are fled;
Your child lies still, yet is not dead,
But rather like a flower hid here,
To spring again another year.

*239*

UPON A CHILD THAT DIED

Here she lies, a pretty bud,
Lately made of flesh and blood;
Who as soon fell fast asleep,
As her little eyes did peep.
--Give her strewings, but not stir
The earth, that lightly covers her.

*240*

UPON A CHILD

Here a pretty baby lies
Sung asleep with lullabies;
Pray be silent, and not stir
Th' easy earth that covers her.

*241*

AN EPITAPH UPON A CHILD

Virgins promised when I died,
That they would each primrose-tide
Duly, morn and evening, come,
And with flowers dress my tomb.
--Having promised, pay your debts
Maids, and here strew violets.

*242*

AN EPITAPH UPON A VIRGIN

Here a solemn fast we keep,
While all beauty lies asleep;
Hush'd be all things, no noise here
But the toning of a tear;
Or a sigh of such as bring
Cowslips for her covering.

*243*

UPON A MAID

Here she lies, in bed of spice,
Fair as Eve in paradise;
For her beauty, it was such,
Poets could not praise too much.
Virgins come, and in a ring
Her supremest REQUIEM sing;
Then depart, but see ye tread
Lightly, lightly o'er the dead.

*244*

THE DIRGE OF JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER:
SUNG BY THE VIRGINS

O thou, the wonder of all days!
O paragon, and pearl of praise!
O Virgin-martyr, ever blest
Above the rest
Of all the maiden-train! We come,
And bring fresh strewings to thy tomb.

Thus, thus, and thus, we compass round
Thy harmless and unhaunted ground;
And as we sing thy dirge, we will
The daffadil,
And other flowers, lay upon
The altar of our love, thy stone.

Thou wonder of all maids, liest here,
Of daughters all, the dearest dear;
The eye of virgins; nay, the queen
Of this smooth green,
And all sweet meads, from whence we get
The primrose and the violet.

Too soon, too dear did Jephthah buy,
By thy sad loss, our liberty;
His was the bond and cov'nant, yet
Thou paid'st the debt;
Lamented Maid! he won the day:
But for the conquest thou didst pay.

Thy father brought with him along
The olive branch and victor's song;
He slew the Ammonites, we know,
But to thy woe;
And in the purchase of our peace,
The cure was worse than the disease.

For which obedient zeal of thine,
We offer here, before thy shrine,
Our sighs for storax, tears for wine;
And to make fine
And fresh thy hearse-cloth, we will here
Four times bestrew thee every year.

Receive, for this thy praise, our tears;
Receive this offering of our hairs;
Receive these crystal vials, fill'd
With tears, distill'd
From teeming eyes; to these we bring,
Each maid, her silver filleting,

To gild thy tomb; besides, these cauls,
These laces, ribbons, and these falls,
These veils, wherewith we use to hide
The bashful bride,
When we conduct her to her groom;
All, all we lay upon thy tomb.

No more, no more, since thou art dead,
Shall we e'er bring coy brides to bed;
No more, at yearly festivals,
We, cowslip balls,
Or chains of columbines shall make,
For this or that occasion's sake.

No, no; our maiden pleasures be
Wrapt in the winding-sheet with thee;
'Tis we are dead, though not i' th' grave;
Or if we have
One seed of life left, 'tis to keep
A Lent for thee, to fast and weep.

Sleep in thy peace, thy bed of spice,
And make this place all paradise;
May sweets grow here, and smoke from hence
Fat frankincense;
Let balm and cassia send their scent
From out thy maiden-monument.

May no wolf howl, or screech owl stir
A wing about thy sepulchre!
No boisterous winds or storms come hither,
To starve or wither
Thy soft sweet earth; but, like a spring,
Love keep it ever flourishing.

May all shy maids, at wonted hours,
Come forth to strew thy tomb with flowers;
May virgins, when they come to mourn,
Male-incense burn
Upon thine altar; then return,
And leave thee sleeping in thy urn.

*245*

THE WIDOWS' TEARS; OR, DIRGE OF DORCAS

Come pity us, all ye who see
Our harps hung on the willow-tree;
Come pity us, ye passers-by,
Who see or hear poor widows' cry;
Come pity us, and bring your ears
And eyes to pity widows' tears.
CHOR. And when you are come hither,
Then we will keep
A fast, and weep
Our eyes out all together,

For Tabitha; who dead lies here,
Clean wash'd, and laid out for the bier.
O modest matrons, weep and wail!
For now the corn and wine must fail;
The basket and the bin of bread,
Wherewith so many souls were fed,
CHOR. Stand empty here for ever;
And ah! the poor,
At thy worn door,
Shall be relieved never.

Woe worth the time, woe worth the day,
That reft us of thee, Tabitha!
For we have lost, with thee, the meal,
The bits, the morsels, and the deal
Of gentle paste and yielding dough,
That thou on widows did bestow.
CHOR. All's gone, and death hath taken
Away from us
Our maundy; thus
Thy widows stand forsaken.

Ah, Dorcas, Dorcas! now adieu
We bid the cruise and pannier too;
Ay, and the flesh, for and the fish,
Doled to us in that lordly dish.
We take our leaves now of the loom
From whence the housewives' cloth did come;
CHOR. The web affords now nothing;
Thou being dead,
The worsted thread
Is cut, that made us clothing.

Farewell the flax and reaming wool,
With which thy house was plentiful;
Farewell the coats, the garments, and
The sheets, the rugs, made by thy hand;
Farewell thy fire and thy light,
That ne'er went out by day or night:--
CHOR. No, or thy zeal so speedy,
That found a way,
By peep of day,
To feed and clothe the needy.

But ah, alas! the almond-bough
And olive-branch is wither'd now;
The wine-press now is ta'en from us,
The saffron and the calamus;
The spice and spikenard hence is gone,
The storax and the cinnamon;
CHOR. The carol of our gladness
Has taken wing;
And our late spring
Of mirth is turn'd to sadness.

How wise wast thou in all thy ways!
How worthy of respect and praise!
How matron-like didst thou go drest!
How soberly above the rest
Of those that prank it with their plumes,
And jet it with their choice perfumes!
CHOR. Thy vestures were not flowing;
Nor did the street
Accuse thy feet
Of mincing in their going.

And though thou here liest dead, we see
A deal of beauty yet in thee.
How sweetly shews thy smiling face,
Thy lips with all diffused grace!
Thy hands, though cold, yet spotless, white,
And comely as the chrysolite.
CHOR. Thy belly like a hill is,
Or as a neat
Clean heap of wheat,
All set about with lilies.

Sleep with thy beauties here, while we
Will shew these garments made by thee;
These were the coats; in these are read
The monuments of Dorcas dead:
These were thy acts, and thou shalt have
These hung as honours o'er thy grave:--
CHOR. And after us, distressed,
Should fame be dumb,
Thy very tomb
Would cry out, Thou art blessed.

*246*

UPON HIS SISTER-IN-LAW, MISTRESS ELIZABETH
HERRICK

First, for effusions due unto the dead,
My solemn vows have here accomplished;
Next, how I love thee, that my grief must tell,
Wherein thou liv'st for ever.--Dear, farewell!

*247*

TO HIS KINSWOMAN, MISTRESS SUSANNA HERRICK

When I consider, dearest, thou dost stay
But here awhile, to languish and decay;
Like to these garden glories, which here be
The flowery-sweet resemblances of thee:
With grief of heart, methinks, I thus do cry,
Would thou hadst ne'er been born, or might'st not die!

*248*

ON HIMSELF

I'll write no more of love, but now repent
Of all those times that I in it have spent.
I'll write no more of life, but wish 'twas ended,
And that my dust was to the earth commended.

*249*

HIS WISH TO PRIVACY

Give me a cell
To dwell,
Where no foot hath
A path;
There will I spend,
And end,
My wearied years
In tears.

*250*

TO HIS PATERNAL COUNTRY

O earth! earth! earth! hear thou my voice, and be
Loving and gentle for to cover me!
Banish'd from thee I live;--ne'er to return,
Unless thou giv'st my small remains an urn.

*251*

COCK-CROW

Bell-man of night, if I about shall go
For to deny my Master, do thou crow!
Thou stop'st Saint Peter in the midst of sin;
Stay me, by crowing, ere I do begin;
Better it is, premonish'd, for to shun
A sin, than fall to weeping when 'tis done.

*252*

TO HIS CONSCIENCE

Can I not sin, but thou wilt be
My private protonotary?
Can I not woo thee, to pass by
A short and sweet iniquity?
I'll cast a mist and cloud upon
My delicate transgression,
So utter dark, as that no eye
Shall see the hugg'd impiety.
Gifts blind the wise, and bribes do please
And wind all other witnesses;
And wilt not thou with gold be tied,
To lay thy pen and ink aside,
That in the mirk and tongueless night,
Wanton I may, and thou not write?
--It will not be: And therefore, now,
For times to come, I'll make this vow;
From aberrations to live free:
So I'll not fear the judge, or thee.

*253*

TO HEAVEN

Open thy gates
To him who weeping waits,
And might come in,
But that held back by sin.
Let mercy be
So kind, to set me free,
And I will straight
Come in, or force the gate.

*254*

AN ODE OF THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOUR

In numbers, and but these few,
I sing thy birth, oh JESU!
Thou pretty Baby, born here,
With sup'rabundant scorn here;
Who for thy princely port here,
Hadst for thy place
Of birth, a base
Out-stable for thy court here.

Instead of neat enclosures
Of interwoven osiers;
Instead of fragrant posies
Of daffadils and roses,
Thy cradle, kingly stranger,
As gospel tells,
Was nothing else,
But, here, a homely manger.

But we with silks, not cruels,
With sundry precious jewels,
And lily-work will dress thee;
And as we dispossess thee
Of clouts, we'll make a chamber,
Sweet babe, for thee,
Of ivory,
And plaster'd round with amber.

The Jews, they did disdain thee;
But we will entertain thee
With glories to await here,
Upon thy princely state here,
And more for love than pity:
From year to year
We'll make thee, here,
A free-born of our city.

*255*

TO HIS SAVIOUR, A CHILD;
A PRESENT, BY A CHILD

Go, pretty child, and bear this flower
Unto thy little Saviour;
And tell him, by that bud now blown,
He is the Rose of Sharon known.
When thou hast said so, stick it there
Upon his bib or stomacher;
And tell him, for good handsel too,
That thou hast brought a whistle new,
Made of a clean straight oaten reed,
To charm his cries at time of need;
Tell him, for coral, thou hast none,
But if thou hadst, he should have one;
But poor thou art, and known to be
Even as moneyless as he.
Lastly, if thou canst win a kiss
From those melifluous lips of his;--
Then never take a second on,
To spoil the first impression.

*256*

GRACE FOR A CHILD

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.
Amen.

*257*

HIS LITANY, TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

In the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart, and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drown'd in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the artless doctor sees
No one hope, but of his fees,
And his skill runs on the lees,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When his potion and his pill,
Has, or none, or little skill,
Meet for nothing but to kill,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the passing-bell doth toll,
And the furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And that number more than true,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the priest his last hath pray'd,
And I nod to what is said,
'Cause my speech is now decay'd,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When, God knows, I'm tost about
Either with despair, or doubt;
Yet, before the glass be out,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tempter me pursu'th
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears, and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the Judgment is reveal'd,
And that open'd which was seal'd;
When to Thee I have appeal'd,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

*258*

TO DEATH

Thou bidst me come away,
And I'll no longer stay,
Than for to shed some tears
For faults of former years;
And to repent some crimes
Done in the present times;
And next, to take a bit
Of bread, and wine with it;
To don my robes of love,
Fit for the place above;
To gird my loins about
With charity throughout;
And so to travel hence
With feet of innocence;
These done, I'll only cry,
'God, mercy!' and so die.

*259*

TO HIS SWEET SAVIOUR

Night hath no wings to him that cannot sleep;
And Time seems then not for to fly, but creep;
Slowly her chariot drives, as if that she
Had broke her wheel, or crack'd her axletree.
Just so it is with me, who list'ning, pray
The winds to blow the tedious night away,
That I might see the cheerful peeping day.
Sick is my heart; O Saviour! do Thou please
To make my bed soft in my sicknesses;
Lighten my candle, so that I beneath
Sleep not for ever in the vaults of death;
Let me thy voice betimes i' th' morning hear;
Call, and I'll come; say Thou the when and where:
Draw me but first, and after Thee I'll run,
And make no one stop till my race be done.

*260*

ETERNITY

O years! and age! farewell:
Behold I go,
Where I do know
Infinity to dwell.

And these mine eyes shall see
All times, how they
Are lost i' th' sea
Of vast eternity:--

Where never moon shall sway
The stars; but she,
And night, shall be
Drown'd in one endless day.

*261*

THE WHITE ISLAND:
OR PLACE OF THE BLEST

In this world, the Isle of Dreams,
While we sit by sorrow's streams,
Tears and terrors are our themes,
Reciting:

But when once from hence we fly,
More and more approaching nigh
Unto young eternity,
Uniting

In that whiter Island, where
Things are evermore sincere:
Candour here, and lustre there,
Delighting:--

There no monstrous fancies shall
Out of hell an horror call,
To create, or cause at all
Affrighting.

There, in calm and cooling sleep,
We our eyes shall never steep,
But eternal watch shall keep,
Attending

Pleasures such as shall pursue
Me immortalized, and you;
And fresh joys, as never too
Have ending.

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