From The Lyrical Poems Of Robert Herrick
Arranged with introduction by Francis Turner Palgrave
ROBERT HERRICK – Born 1591 : Died 1674
Those who most admire the Poet from whose many pieces a selection only is here offered, will, it is probable, feel most strongly (with the Editor) that excuse is needed for an attempt of an obviously presumptuous nature. The choice made by any selector invites challenge: the admission, perhaps, of some poems, the absence of more, will be censured:–Whilst others may wholly condemn the process, in virtue of an argument not unfrequently advanced of late, that a writer’s judgment on his own work is to be considered final. And his book to be taken as he left it, or left altogether; a literal reproduction of the original text being occasionally included in this requirement.
If poetry were composed solely for her faithful band of true lovers and true students, such a facsimile as that last indicated would have claims irresistible; but if the first and last object of this, as of the other Fine Arts, may be defined in language borrowed from a different range of thought, as ‘the greatest pleasure of the greatest number,’ it is certain that less stringent forms of reproduction are required and justified. The great majority of readers cannot bring either leisure or taste, or information sufficient to take them through a large mass (at any rate) of ancient verse, not even if it be Spenser’s or Milton’s. Manners and modes of speech, again, have changed; and much that was admissible centuries since, or at least sought admission, has now, by a law against which protest is idle, lapsed into the indecorous. Even unaccustomed forms of spelling are an effort to the eye;–a kind of friction, which diminishes the ease and enjoyment of the reader.
These hindrances and clogs, of very diverse nature, cannot be disregarded by Poetry. In common with everything which aims at human benefit, she must work not only for the ‘faithful’: she has also the duty of ‘conversion.’ Like a messenger from heaven, it is hers to inspire, to console, to elevate: to convert the world, in a word, to herself. Every rough place that slackens her footsteps must be made smooth; nor, in this Art, need there be fear that the way will ever be vulgarized by too much ease, nor that she will be loved less by the elect, for being loved more widely.
Passing from these general considerations, it is true that a selection framed in conformity with them, especially if one of our older poets be concerned, parts with a certain portion of the pleasure which poetry may confer. A writer is most thoroughly to be judged by the whole of what he printed. A selector inevitably holds too despotic a position over his author. The frankness of speech which we have abandoned is an interesting evidence how the tone of manners changes. The poet’s own spelling and punctuation bear, or may bear, a gleam of his personality. But such last drops of pleasure are the reward of fully-formed taste; and fully-formed taste cannot be reached without full knowledge. This, we have noticed, most readers cannot bring. Hence, despite all drawbacks, an anthology may have its place. A book which tempts many to read a little, will guide some to that more profound and loving study of which the result is, the full accomplishment of the poet’s mission.
We have, probably, no poet to whom the reasons here advanced to justify the invidious task of selection apply more fully and forcibly than to Herrick. Highly as he is to be rated among our lyrists, no one who reads through his fourteen hundred pieces can reasonably doubt that whatever may have been the influences, –wholly unknown to us,–which determined the contents of his volume, severe taste was not one of them. PECAT FORTITER:–his exquisite directness and simplicity of speech repeatedly take such form that the book cannot be offered to a very large number of those readers who would most enjoy it. The spelling is at once arbitrary and obsolete. Lastly, the complete reproduction of the original text, with explanatory notes, edited by Mr Grosart, supplies materials equally full and interesting for those who may, haply, be allured by this little book to master one of our most attractive poets in his integrity.
In Herrick’s single own edition of HESPERIDES and NOBLE NUMBERS, but little arrangement is traceable: nor have we more than a few internal signs of date in composition. It would hence be unwise to attempt grouping the poems on a strict plan: and the divisions under which they are here ranged must be regarded rather as progressive aspects of a landscape than as territorial demarcations. Pieces bearing on the poet as such are placed first; then, those vaguely definable as of idyllic character, ‘his girls,’ epigrams, poems on natural objects, on character and life; lastly, a few in his religious vein. For the text, although reference has been made to the original of 1647-8, Mr Grosart’s excellent reprint has been mainly followed. And to that edition this book is indebted for many valuable exegetical notes, kindly placed at the Editor’s disposal. But for much fuller elucidation both of words and allusions, and of the persons mentioned, readers are referred to Mr Grosart’s volumes, which (like the same scholar’s ‘Sidney’ and ‘Donne’), for the first time give Herrick a place among books not printed only, but edited.
Robert Herrick’s personal fate is in one point like Shakespeare’s. We know or seem to know them both, through their works, with singular intimacy. But with this our knowledge substantially ends. No private letter of Shakespeare, no record of his conversation, no account of the circumstances in which his writings were published, remains: hardly any statement how his greatest contemporaries ranked him. A group of Herrick’s youthful letters on business has, indeed, been preserved; of his life and studies, of his reputation during his own time, almost nothing. For whatever facts affectionate diligence could now gather. Readers are referred to Mr Grosart’s ‘Introduction.’ But if, to supplement the picture, inevitably imperfect, which this gives, we turn to Herrick’s own book, we learn little, biographically, except the names of a few friends,–that his general sympathies were with the Royal cause,–and that he wearied in Devonshire for London. So far as is known, he published but this one volume, and that, when not far from his sixtieth year. Some pieces may be traced in earlier collections; some few carry ascertainable dates; the rest lie over a period of near forty years, during a great portion of which we have no distinct account where Herrick lived, or what were his employments. We know that he shone with Ben Jonson and the wits at the nights and suppers of those gods of our glorious early literature: we may fancy him at Beaumanor, or Houghton, with his uncle and cousins, keeping a Leicestershire Christmas in the Manor-house: or, again, in some sweet southern county with Julia and Anthea, Corinna and Dianeme by his side (familiar then by other names now never to be remembered), sitting merry, but with just the sadness of one who hears sweet music, in some meadow among his favourite flowers of spring-time;–there, or ‘where the rose lingers latest.’ …. But ‘the dream, the fancy,’ is all that Time has spared us. And if it be curious that his contemporaries should have left so little record of this delightful poet and (as we should infer from the book) genial- hearted man, it is not less so that the single first edition should have satisfied the seventeenth century, and that, before the present, notices of Herrick should be of the rarest occurrence.
The artist’s ‘claim to exist’ is, however, always far less to be looked for in his life, than in his art, upon the secret of which the fullest biography can tell us little–as little, perhaps, as criticism can analyse its charm. But there are few of our poets who stand less in need than Herrick of commentaries of this description,–in which too often we find little more than a dull or florid prose version of what the author has given us admirably in verse. Apart from obsolete words or allusions, Herrick is the best commentator upon Herrick. A few lines only need therefore here be added, aiming rather to set forth his place in the sequence of English poets, and especially in regard to those near his own time, than to point out in detail beauties which he unveils in his own way, and so most durably and delightfully.
When our Muses, silent or sick for a century and more after Chaucer’s death, during the years of war and revolution, reappeared, they brought with them foreign modes of art, ancient and contemporary, in the forms of which they began to set to music the new material which the age supplied. At the very outset, indeed, the moralizing philosophy which has characterized the English from the beginning of our national history, appears in the writers of the troubled times lying between the last regnal years of Henry VIII and the first of his great daughter. But with the happier hopes of Elizabeth’s accession, poetry was once more distinctly followed, not only as a means of conveying thought, but as a Fine Art. And hence something constrained and artificial blends with the freshness of the Elizabethan literature. For its great underlying elements it necessarily reverts to those embodied in our own earlier poets, Chaucer above all, to whom, after barely one hundred and fifty years, men looked up as a father of song: but in points of style and treatment, the poets of the sixteenth century lie under a double external influence–that of the poets of Greece and Rome (known either in their own tongues or by translation), and that of the modern literatures which had themselves undergone the same classical impulse. Italy was the source most regarded during the more strictly Elizabethan period; whence its lyrical poetry and the dramatic in a less degree, are coloured much less by pure and severe classicalism with its closeness to reality, than by the allegorical and elaborate style, fancy and fact curiously blended, which had been generated in Italy under the peculiar and local circumstances of her pilgrimage in literature and art from the age of Dante onwards. Whilst that influence lasted, such brilliant pictures of actual life, such directness, movement, and simplicity in style, as Chaucer often shows, were not yet again attainable: and although satire, narrative, the poetry of reflection, were meanwhile not wholly unknown, yet they only appear in force at the close of this period. And then also the pressure of political and religious strife, veiled in poetry during the greater part of Elizabeth’s actual reign under the forms of pastoral and allegory, again imperiously breaks in upon the gracious but somewhat slender and artificial fashions of England’s Helicon: the DIVOM NUMEN, SEDESQUE QUIETAE which, in some degree the Elizabethan poets offer, disappear; until filling the central years of the seventeenth century we reach an age as barren for inspiration of new song as the Wars of the Roses; although the great survivors from earlier years mask this sterility;–masking also the revolution in poetical manner and matter which we can see secretly preparing in the later ‘Cavalier’ poets, but which was not clearly recognised before the time of Dryden’s culmination.
In the period here briefly sketched, what is Herrick’s portion? His verse is eminent for sweet and gracious fluency; this is a real note of the ‘Elizabethan’ poets. His subjects are frequently pastoral, with a classical tinge, more or less slight, infused; his language, though not free from exaggeration, is generally free from intellectual conceits and distortion, and is eminent throughout for a youthful NAIVETE. Such, also, are qualities of the latter sixteenth century literature. But if these characteristics might lead us to call Herrick ‘the last of the Elizabethans,’ born out of due time, the differences between him and them are not less marked. Herrick’s directness of speech is accompanied by an equally clear and simple presentment of his thought; we have, perhaps, no poet who writes more consistently and earnestly with his eye upon his subject. An allegorical or mystical treatment is alien from him: he handles awkwardly the few traditional fables which he introduces. He is also wholly free from Italianizing tendencies: his classicalism even is that of an English student,–of a schoolboy, indeed, if he be compared with a Jonson or a Milton. Herrick’s personal eulogies on his friends and others, further, witness to the extension of the field of poetry after Elizabeth’s age;–in which his enthusiastic geniality, his quick and easy transitions of subject, have also little precedent.
If, again, we compare Herrick’s book with those of his fellow- poets for a hundred years before, very few are the traces which he gives of imitation, or even of study. During the long interval between Herrick’s entrance on his Cambridge and his clerical careers (an interval all but wholly obscure to us), it is natural to suppose that he read, at any rate, his Elizabethan predecessors: yet (beyond those general similarities already noticed) the Editor can find no positive proof of familiarity. Compare Herrick with Marlowe, Greene, Breton, Drayton, or other pretty pastoralists of the HELICON–his general and radical unlikeness is what strikes us; whilst he is even more remote from the passionate intensity of Sidney and Shakespeare, the Italian graces of Spenser, the pensive beauty of PARTHENOPHIL, of DIELLA, of FIDESSA, of the HECATOMPATHIA and the TEARS OF FANCY.
Nor is Herrick’s resemblance nearer to many of the contemporaries who have been often grouped with him. He has little in common with the courtly elegance, the learned polish, which too rarely redeem commonplace and conceits in Carew, Habington, Lovelace, Cowley, or Waller. Herrick has his CONCETTI also: but they are in him generally true plays of fancy; he writes throughout far more naturally than these lyrists, who, on the other hand, in their unfrequent successes reach a more complete and classical form of expression. Thus, when Carew speaks of an aged fair one
When beauty, youth, and all sweets leave her, Love may return, but lovers never!
Cowley, of his mistress–
Love in her sunny eyes does basking play, Love walks the pleasant mazes of her hair:
or take Lovelace, ‘To Lucasta,’ Waller, in his ‘Go, lovely rose,’–we have a finish and condensation which Herrick hardly attains; a literary quality alien from his ‘woodnotes wild,’ which may help us to understand the very small appreciation he met from his age. He had ‘a pretty pastoral gale of fancy,’ said Phillips, cursorily dismissing Herrick in his THEATRUM: not suspecting how inevitably artifice and mannerism, if fashionable for awhile, pass into forgetfulness, whilst the simple cry of Nature partake in her permanence.
Donne and Marvell, stronger men, leave also no mark on our poet. The elaborate thought, the metrical harshness of the first, could find no counterpart in Herrick; whilst Marvell, beyond him in imaginative power, though twisting it too often into contortion and excess, appears to have been little known as a lyrist then:– as, indeed, his great merits have never reached anything like due popular recognition. Yet Marvell’s natural description is nearer Herrick’s in felicity and insight than any of the poets named above. Nor, again, do we trace anything of Herbert or Vaughan in Herrick’s NOBLE NUMBERS, which, though unfairly judged if held insincere, are obviously far distant from the intense conviction, the depth and inner fervour of his high-toned contemporaries.
It is among the great dramatists of this age that we find the only English influences palpably operative on this singularly original writer. The greatest, in truth, is wholly absent: and it is remarkable that although Herrick may have joined in the wit-contests and genialities of the literary clubs in London soon after Shakespeare’s death, and certainly lived in friendship with some who had known him, yet his name is never mentioned in the poetical commemorations of the HESPERIDES. In Herrick, echoes from Fletcher’s idyllic pieces in the FAITHFUL SHEPHERDESS are faintly traceable; from his songs, ‘Hear what Love can do,’ and ‘The lusty Spring,’ more distinctly. But to Ben Jonson, whom Herrick addresses as his patron saint in song, and ranks on the highest list of his friends, his obligations are much more perceptible. In fact, Jonson’s non-dramatic poetry,–the EPIGRAMS and FOREST of 1616, the UNDERWOODS of 1641, (he died in 1637),– supply models, generally admirable in point of art, though of very unequal merit in their execution and contents, of the principal forms under which we may range Herrick’s HESPERIDES. The graceful love-song, the celebration of feasts and wit, the encomia of friends, the epigram as then understood, are all here represented: even Herrick’s vein in natural description is prefigured in the odes to Penshurst and Sir Robert Wroth, of 1616. And it is in the religious pieces of the NOBLE NUMBERS, for which Jonson afforded the least copious precedents, that, as a rule, Herrick is least successful.
Even if we had not the verses on his own book, (the most noteworthy of which are here printed as PREFATORY,) in proof that Herrick was no careless singer, but a true artist, working with conscious knowledge of his art, we might have inferred the fact from the choice of Jonson as his model. That great poet, as Clarendon justly remarked, had ‘judgment to order and govern fancy, rather than excess of fancy: his productions being slow and upon deliberation.’ No writer could be better fitted for the guidance of one so fancy-free as Herrick; to whom the curb, in the old phrase, was more needful than the spur, and whose invention, more fertile and varied than Jonson’s, was ready at once to fill up the moulds of form provided. He does this with a lively facility, contrasting much with the evidence of labour in his master’s work. Slowness and deliberation are the last qualities suggested by Herrick. Yet it may be doubted whether the volatile ease, the effortless grace, the wild bird-like fluency with which he
Scatters his loose notes in the waste of air
are not, in truth, the results of exquisite art working in co- operation with the gifts of nature. The various readings which our few remaining manuscripts or printed versions have supplied to Mr Grosart’s ‘Introduction,’ attest the minute and curious care with which Herrick polished and strengthened his own work: his airy facility, his seemingly spontaneous melodies, as with Shelley–his counterpart in pure lyrical art within this century –were earned by conscious labour; perfect freedom was begotten of perfect art;–nor, indeed, have excellence and permanence any other parent.
With the error that regards Herrick as a careless singer is closely twined that which ranks him in the school of that master of elegant pettiness who has usurped and abused the name Anacreon; as a mere light-hearted writer of pastorals, a gay and frivolous Renaissance amourist. He has indeed those elements: but with them is joined the seriousness of an age which knew that the light mask of classicalism and bucolic allegory could be worn only as an ornament, and that life held much deeper and further- reaching issues than were visible to the narrow horizons within which Horace or Martial circumscribed the range of their art. Between the most intensely poetical, and so, greatest, among the French poets of this century, and Herrick, are many points of likeness. He too, with Alfred de Musset, might have said
Quoi que nous puissions faire,
Je souffre; il est trop tard; le monde s’est fait vieux. Une immense esperance a traverse la terre; Malgre nous vers le ciel il faut lever les yeux.
Indeed, Herrick’s deepest debt to ancient literature lies not in the models which he directly imitated, nor in the Anacreontic tone which with singular felicity he has often taken. These are common to many writers with him:–nor will he who cannot learn more from the great ancient world ever rank among poets of high order, or enter the innermost sanctuary of art. But, the power to describe men and things as the poet sees them with simple sincerity, insight, and grace: to paint scenes and imaginations as perfect organic wholes;–carrying with it the gift to clothe each picture, as if by unerring instinct, in fit metrical form, giving to each its own music; beginning without affectation, and rounding off without effort;– the power, in a word, to leave simplicity, sanity, and beauty as the last impressions lingering on our minds, these gifts are at once the true bequest of classicalism, and the reason why (until modern effort equals them) the study of that Hellenic and Latin poetry in which these gifts are eminent above all other literatures yet created, must be essential. And it is success in precisely these excellences which is here claimed for Herrick. He is classical in the great and eternal sense of the phrase: and much more so, probably, than he was himself aware of. No poet in fact is so far from dwelling in a past or foreign world: it is the England, if not of 1648, at least of his youth, in which he lives and moves and loves: his Bucolics show no trace of Sicily: his Anthea and Julia wear no ‘buckles of the purest gold,’ nor have anything about them foreign to Middlesex or Devon. Herrick’s imagination has no far horizons: like Burns and Crabbe fifty years since, or Barnes (that exquisite and neglected pastoralist of fair Dorset, perfect within his narrower range as Herrick) to-day, it is his own native land only which he sees and paints: even the fairy world in which, at whatever inevitable interval, he is second to Shakespeare, is pure English; or rather, his elves live in an elfin county of their own, and are all but severed from humanity. Within that greater circle of Shakespeare, where Oberon and Ariel and their fellows move, aiding or injuring mankind, and reflecting human life in a kind of unconscious parody, Herrick cannot walk: and it may have been due to his good sense and true feeling for art, that here, where resemblance might have seemed probable, he borrows nothing from MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM or TEMPEST. if we are moved by the wider range of Byron’s or Shelley’s sympathies, there is a charm, also, in this sweet insularity of Herrick; a narrowness perhaps, yet carrying with it a healthful reality absent from the vapid and artificial ‘cosmopolitanism’ that did such wrong on Goethe’s genius. If he has not the exotic blooms and strange odours which poets who derive from literature show in their conservatories, Herrick has the fresh breeze and thyme-bed fragrance of open moorland, the grace and greenery of English meadows: with Homer and Dante, he too shares the strength and inspiration which come from touch of a man’s native soil.
What has been here sketched is not planned so much as a criticism in form on Herrick’s poetry as an attempt to seize his relations to his predecessors and contemporaries. If we now tentatively inquire what place may be assigned to him in our literature at large, Herrick has no single lyric to show equal, in pomp of music, brilliancy of diction, or elevation of sentiment to some which Spenser before, Milton in his own time, Dryden and Gray, Wordsworth and Shelley, since have given us. Nor has he, as already noticed, the peculiar finish and reserve (if the phrase may be allowed) traceable, though rarely, in Ben Jonson and others of the seventeenth century. He does not want passion; yet his passion wants concentration: it is too ready, also, to dwell on externals: imagination with him generally appears clothed in forms of fancy. Among his contemporaries, take Crashaw’s ‘Wishes’: Sir J. Beaumont’s elegy on his child Gervase: take Bishop King’s ‘Surrender’:
My once-dear Love!–hapless, that I no more Must call thee so. . . . The rich affection’s store That fed our hopes, lies now exhaust and spent, Like sums of treasure unto bankrupts lent:– We that did nothing study but the way
To love each other, with which thoughts the day Rose with delight to us, and with them set, Must learn the hateful art, how to forget! –Fold back our arms, take home our fruitless loves, That must new fortunes try, like turtle doves Dislodged from their haunts. We must in tears Unwind a love knit up in many years.
In this one kiss I here surrender thee Back to thyself: so thou again art free:-
take eight lines by some old unknown Northern singer:
When I think on the happy days
I spent wi’ you, my dearie,
And now what lands between us lie, How can I be but eerie!
How slow ye move, ye heavy hours,
As ye were wae and weary!
It was na sae ye glinted by
When I was wi’ my dearie:–
–O! there is an intensity here, a note of passion beyond the deepest of Herrick’s. This tone (whether from temperament or circumstance or scheme of art), is wanting to the HESPERIDES and NOBLE NUMBERS: nor does Herrick’s lyre, sweet and varied as it is, own that purple chord, that more inwoven harmony, possessed by poets of greater depth and splendour,–by Shakespeare and Milton often, by Spenser more rarely. But if we put aside these ‘greater gods’ of song, with Sidney,–in the Editor’s judgment Herrick’s mastery (to use a brief expression), both over Nature and over Art, clearly assigns to him the first place as lyrical poet, in the strict and pure sense of the phrase, among all who flourished during the interval between Henry V and a hundred years since. Single pieces of equal, a few of higher, quality, we have, indeed, meanwhile received, not only from the master- singers who did not confine themselves to the Lyric, but from many poets–some the unknown contributors to our early anthologies, then Jonson, Marvell, Waller, Collins, and others, with whom we reach the beginning of the wider sweep which lyrical poetry has since taken. Yet, looking at the whole work, not at the selected jewels, of this great and noble multitude, Herrick, as lyrical poet strictly, offers us by far the most homogeneous, attractive, and varied treasury. No one else among lyrists within the period defined, has such unfailing freshness: so much variety within the sphere prescribed to himself: such closeness to nature, whether in description or in feeling: such easy fitness in language: melody so unforced and delightful. His dull pages are much less frequent: he has more lines, in his own phrase, ‘born of the royal blood’: the
Inflata rore non Achaico verba
are rarer with him: although superficially mannered, nature is so much nearer to him, that far fewer of his pieces have lost vitality and interest through adherence to forms of feeling or fashions of thought now obsolete. A Roman contemporary is described by the younger Pliny in words very appropriate to Herrick: who, in fact, if Greek in respect of his method and style, in the contents of his poetry displays the ‘frankness of nature and vivid sense of life’ which criticism assigns as marks of the great Roman poets. FACIT VERSUS, QUALES CATULLUS AUT CALVUS. QUANTUM ILLIS LEPORIS, DULCEDINIS, AMARITUDINIS AMORIS! INSERIT SANE, SED DATA OPERA, MOLLIBUS LENIBUSQUE DURIUSCULOS QUOSDAM; ET HOC, QUASI CATULLUS AUT CALVUS. Many pieces have been, here refused admittance, whether from coarseness of phrase or inferior value: yet these are rarely defective in the lyrical art, which, throughout the writer’s work, is so simple and easy as almost to escape notice through its very excellence. In one word, Herrick, in a rare and special sense, is unique.
To these qualities we may, perhaps, ascribe the singular neglect which, so far as we may infer, he met with in his own age, and certainly in the century following. For the men of the Restoration period he was too natural, too purely poetical: he had not the learned polish, the political allusion, the tone of the city, the didactic turn, which were then and onwards demanded from poetry. In the next age, no tradition consecrated his name; whilst writers of a hundred years before were then too remote for familiarity, and not remote enough for reverence. Moving on to our own time, when some justice has at length been conceded to him, Herrick has to meet the great rivalry of the poets who, from Burns and Cowper to Tennyson, have widened and deepened the lyrical sphere, making it at once on the one hand more intensely personal, on the other, more free and picturesque in the range of problems dealt with: whilst at the same time new and richer lyrical forms, harmonies more intricate and seven-fold, have been created by them, as in Hellas during her golden age of song, to embody ideas and emotions unknown or unexpressed under Tudors and Stuarts. To this latter superiority Herrick would, doubtless, have bowed, as he bowed before Ben Jonson’s genius. ‘Rural ditties,’ and ‘oaten flute’ cannot bear the competition of the full modern orchestra. Yet this author need not fear! That exquisite: and lofty pleasure which it is the first and the last aim of all true art to give, must, by its own nature, be lasting also. As the eyesight fluctuates, and gives the advantage to different colours in turn, so to the varying moods of the mind the same beauty does not always seem equally beautiful. Thus from the ‘purple light’ of our later poetry there are hours in which we may look to the daffodil and rose-tints of Herrick’s old Arcadia, for refreshment and delight. And the pleasure which he gives is as eminently wholesome as pleasurable. Like the holy river of Virgil, to the souls who drink of him, Herrick offers ‘securos latices.’ He is conspicuously free from many of the maladies incident to his art. Here is no overstrain, no spasmodic cry, so wire-drawn analysis or sensational rhetoric, no music without sense, no mere second-hand literary inspiration, no mannered archaism:–above all, no sickly sweetness, no subtle, unhealthy affectation. Throughout his work, whether when it is strong, or in the less worthy portions, sanity, sincerity, simplicity, lucidity, are everywhere the characteristics of Herrick: in these, not in his pretty Pagan masquerade, he shows the note,–the only genuine note,–of Hellenic descent. Hence, through whatever changes and fashions poetry may pass, her true lovers he is likely to ‘please now, and please for long.’ His verse, in the words of a poet greater than himself, is of that quality which ‘adds sunlight to daylight’; which is able to ‘make the happy happier.’ He will, it may be hoped, carry to the many Englands across the seas, east and west, pictures of English life exquisite in truth and grace:–to the more fortunate inhabitants (as they must perforce hold themselves!) of the old country, her image, as she was two centuries since, will live in the ‘golden apples’ of the West, offered to us by this sweet singer of Devonshire. We have greater poets, not a few; none more faithful to nature as he saw her, none more perfect in his art;–none, more companionable:–
F. T. P.
** C H R Y S O M E L A **
A SELECTION FROM THE LYRICAL POEMS OF ROBERT HERRICK
** PREFATORY **
THE ARGUMENT OF HIS BOOK
I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers, Of April, May, of June, and July-flowers; I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes, Of bride-grooms, brides, and of their bridal-cakes. I write of Youth, of Love;–and have access By these, to sing of cleanly wantonness; I sing of dews, of rains, and, piece by piece, Of balm, of oil, of spice, and ambergris. I sing of times trans-shifting; and I write How roses first came red, and lilies white. I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing The court of Mab, and of the Fairy King. I write of Hell; I sing, and ever shall
Of Heaven,–and hope to have it after all.
TO HIS MUSE
Whither, mad maiden, wilt thou roam?
Far safer ’twere to stay at home;
Where thou mayst sit, and piping, please The poor and private cottages.
Since cotes and hamlets best agree
With this thy meaner minstrelsy.
There with the reed thou mayst express The shepherd’s fleecy happiness;
And with thy Eclogues intermix:
Some smooth and harmless Bucolics.
There, on a hillock, thou mayst sing Unto a handsome shepherdling;
Or to a girl, that keeps the neat,
With breath more sweet than violet. There, there, perhaps such lines as these May take the simple villages;
But for the court, the country wit
Is despicable unto it.
Stay then at home, and do not go
Or fly abroad to seek for woe;
Contempts in courts and cities dwell No critic haunts the poor man’s cell,
Where thou mayst hear thine own lines read By no one tongue there censured.
That man’s unwise will search for ill, And may prevent it, sitting still.
WHEN HE WOULD HAVE HIS VERSES READ
In sober mornings, do not thou rehearse The holy incantation of a verse;
But when that men have both well drunk, and fed, Let my enchantments then be sung or read. When laurel spirts i’ th’ fire, and when the hearth Smiles to itself, and gilds the roof with mirth; When up the Thyrse is raised, and when the sound Of sacred orgies, flies A round, A round; When the rose reigns, and locks with ointments shine, Let rigid Cato read these lines of mine.
TO HIS BOOK
Make haste away, and let one be
A friendly patron unto thee;
Lest, rapt from hence, I see thee lie Torn for the use of pastery;
Or see thy injured leaves serve well To make loose gowns for mackarel;
Or see the grocers, in a trice,
Make hoods of thee to serve out spice.
TO HIS BOOK
Take mine advice, and go not near
Those faces, sour as vinegar;
For these, and nobler numbers, can
Ne’er please the supercilious man.
TO HIS BOOK
Be bold, my Book, nor be abash’d, or fear The cutting thumb-nail, or the brow severe; But by the Muses swear, all here is good, If but well read, or ill read, understood.
TO MISTRESS KATHARINE BRADSHAW, THE LOVELY, THAT CROWNED HIM WITH LAUREL
My Muse in meads has spent her many hours Sitting, and sorting several sorts of flowers, To make for others garlands; and to set
On many a head here, many a coronet. But amongst all encircled here, not one
Gave her a day of coronation;
Till you, sweet mistress, came and interwove A laurel for her, ever young as Love.
You first of all crown’d her; she must, of due, Render for that, a crown of life to you.
TO HIS VERSES
What will ye, my poor orphans, do,
When I must leave the world and you; Who’ll give ye then a sheltering shed,
Or credit ye, when I am dead?
Who’ll let ye by their fire sit,
Although ye have a stock of wit,
Already coin’d to pay for it?
–I cannot tell: unless there be
Some race of old humanity
Left, of the large heart and long hand, Alive, as noble Westmorland;
Or gallant Newark; which brave two
May fost’ring fathers be to you.
If not, expect to be no less
Ill used, than babes left fatherless.
NOT EVERY DAY FIT FOR VERSE
‘Tis not ev’ry day that I
Fitted am to prophesy:
No, but when the spirit fills
The fantastic pannicles,
Full of fire, then I write
As the Godhead doth indite.
Thus enraged, my lines are hurl’d,
Like the Sibyl’s, through the world: Look how next the holy fire
Either slakes, or doth retire;
So the fancy cools:–till when
That brave spirit comes again.
HIS PRAYER TO BEN JONSON
When I a verse shall make,
Know I have pray’d thee,
For old religion’s sake,
Saint Ben, to aid me
Make the way smooth for me,
When, I, thy Herrick,
Honouring thee on my knee
Offer my Lyric.
Candles I’ll give to thee,
And a new altar;
And thou, Saint Ben, shalt be
Writ in my psalter.
HIS REQUEST TO JULIA
Julia, if I chance to die
Ere I print my poetry,
I most humbly thee desire
To commit it to the fire:
Better ’twere my book were dead,
Than to live not perfected.
TO HIS BOOK
Go thou forth, my book, though late,
Yet be timely fortunate.
It may chance good luck may send
Thee a kinsman or a friend,
That may harbour thee, when I
With my fates neglected lie.
If thou know’st not where to dwell, See, the fire’s by.–Farewell!
HIS POETRY HIS PILLAR
Only a little more
I have to write:
Then I’ll give o’er,
And bid the world good-night.
‘Tis but a flying minute,
That I must stay,
Or linger in it:
And then I must away.
O Time, that cut’st down all,
And scarce leav’st here
Of any men that were;
–How many lie forgot
In vaults beneath,
And piece-meal rot
Without a fame in death?
Behold this living stone
I rear for me,
Ne’er to be thrown
Down, envious Time, by thee.
Pillars let some set up
If so they please;
Here is my hope,
And my Pyramides.
TO HIS BOOK
If hap it must, that I must see thee lie Absyrtus-like, all torn confusedly;
With solemn tears, and with much grief of heart, I’ll recollect thee, weeping, part by part; And having wash’d thee, close thee in a chest With spice; that done, I’ll leave thee to thy rest.
Thou shalt not all die; for while Love’s fire shines Upon his altar, men shall read thy lines; And learn’d musicians shall, to honour Herrick’s Fame, and his name, both set and sing his lyrics.
To his book’s end this last line he’d have placed:– Jocund his Muse was, but his Life was chaste.
** IDYLLICA **
THE COUNTRY LIFE:
TO THE HONOURED MR ENDYMION PORTER, GROOM OF THE BED-CHAMBER TO HIS MAJESTY
Sweet country life, to such unknown,
Whose lives are others’, not their own! But serving courts and cities, be
Less happy, less enjoying thee.
Thou never plough’st the ocean’s foam To seek and bring rough pepper home:
Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove
To bring from thence the scorched clove: Nor, with the loss of thy loved rest,
Bring’st home the ingot from the West. No, thy ambition’s master-piece
Flies no thought higher than a fleece: Or how to pay thy hinds, and clear
All scores: and so to end the year: But walk’st about thine own dear bounds, Not envying others’ larger grounds:
For well thou know’st, ’tis not th’ extent Of land makes life, but sweet content.
When now the cock (the ploughman’s horn) Calls forth the lily-wristed morn;
Then to thy corn-fields thou dost go, Which though well soil’d, yet thou dost know That the best compost for the lands
Is the wise master’s feet, and hands. There at the plough thou find’st thy team, With a hind whistling there to them:
And cheer’st them up, by singing how The kingdom’s portion is the plough.
This done, then to th’ enamell’d meads Thou go’st; and as thy foot there treads, Thou seest a present God-like power
Imprinted in each herb and flower:
And smell’st the breath of great-eyed kine, Sweet as the blossoms of the vine.
Here thou behold’st thy large sleek neat Unto the dew-laps up in meat:
And, as thou look’st, the wanton steer, The heifer, cow, and ox draw near,
To make a pleasing pastime there.
These seen, thou go’st to view thy flocks Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox,
And find’st their bellies there as full Of short sweet grass, as backs with wool: And leav’st them, as they feed and fill, A shepherd piping on a hill.
For sports, for pageantry, and plays, Thou hast thy eves, and holydays:
On which the young men and maids meet, To exercise their dancing feet:
Tripping the comely country Round,
With daffadils and daisies crown’d. Thy wakes, thy quintels, here thou hast, Thy May-poles too with garlands graced;
Thy Morris-dance; thy Whitsun-ale;
Thy shearing-feast, which never fail. Thy harvest home; thy wassail bowl,
That’s toss’d up after Fox i’ th’ hole: Thy mummeries; thy Twelve-tide kings
And queens; thy Christmas revellings: Thy nut-brown mirth, thy russet wit,
And no man pays too dear for it.–
To these, thou hast thy times to go And trace the hare i’ th’ treacherous snow: Thy witty wiles to draw, and get
The lark into the trammel net:
Thou hast thy cockrood, and thy glade To take the precious pheasant made:
Thy lime-twigs, snares, and pit-falls then To catch the pilfering birds, not men.
–O happy life! if that their good
The husbandmen but understood!
Who all the day themselves do please, And younglings, with such sports as these: And lying down, have nought t’ affright
Sweet Sleep, that makes more short the night. CAETERA DESUNT–
TO PHILLIS, TO LOVE AND LIVE WITH HIM
Live, live with me, and thou shalt see The pleasures I’ll prepare for thee:
What sweets the country can afford
Shall bless thy bed, and bless thy board. The soft sweet moss shall be thy bed,
With crawling woodbine over-spread: By which the silver-shedding streams
Shall gently melt thee into dreams. Thy clothing next, shall be a gown
Made of the fleeces’ purest down.
The tongues of kids shall be thy meat; Their milk thy drink; and thou shalt eat The paste of filberts for thy bread
With cream of cowslips buttered:
Thy feasting-table shall be hills
With daisies spread, and daffadils; Where thou shalt sit, and Red-breast by, For meat, shall give thee melody.
I’ll give thee chains and carcanets Of primroses and violets.
A bag and bottle thou shalt have,
That richly wrought, and this as brave; So that as either shall express
The wearer’s no mean shepherdess.
At shearing-times, and yearly wakes, When Themilis his pastime makes,
There thou shalt be; and be the wit, Nay more, the feast, and grace of it.
On holydays, when virgins meet
To dance the heys with nimble feet, Thou shalt come forth, and then appear
The Queen of Roses for that year.
And having danced (‘bove all the best) Carry the garland from the rest,
In wicker-baskets maids shall bring To thee, my dearest shepherdling,
The blushing apple, bashful pear,
And shame-faced plum, all simp’ring there. Walk in the groves, and thou shalt find
The name of Phillis in the rind
Of every straight and smooth-skin tree; Where kissing that, I’ll twice kiss thee. To thee a sheep-hook I will send,
Be-prank’d with ribbands, to this end, This, this alluring hook might be
Less for to catch a sheep, than me. Thou shalt have possets, wassails fine,
Not made of ale, but spiced wine;
To make thy maids and self free mirth, All sitting near the glitt’ring hearth.
Thou shalt have ribbands, roses, rings, Gloves, garters, stockings, shoes, and strings Of winning colours, that shall move
Others to lust, but me to love.
–These, nay, and more, thine own shall be, If thou wilt love, and live with me.
Give way, give way, ye gates, and win An easy blessing to your bin
And basket, by our entering in.
May both with manchet stand replete;
Your larders, too, so hung with meat, That though a thousand, thousand eat,
Yet, ere twelve moons shall whirl about Their silv’ry spheres, there’s none may doubt But more’s sent in than was served out.
Next, may your dairies prosper so,
As that your pans no ebb may know;
But if they do, the more to flow,
Like to a solemn sober stream,
Bank’d all with lilies, and the cream Of sweetest cowslips filling them.
Then may your plants be press’d with fruit, Nor bee or hive you have be mute,
But sweetly sounding like a lute.
Last, may your harrows, shares, and ploughs, Your stacks, your stocks, your sweetest mows, All prosper by your virgin-vows.
–Alas! we bless, but see none here,
That brings us either ale or beer;
In a dry-house all things are near.
Let’s leave a longer time to wait,
Where rust and cobwebs bind the gate; And all live here with needy fate;
Where chimneys do for ever weep
For want of warmth, and stomachs keep With noise the servants’ eyes from sleep.
It is in vain to sing, or stay
Our free feet here, but we’ll away: Yet to the Lares this we’ll say:
‘The time will come when you’ll be sad, ‘And reckon this for fortune bad,
‘T’ave lost the good ye might have had.’
If ye will with Mab find grace,
Set each platter in his place;
Rake the fire up, and get
Water in, ere sun be set.
Wash your pails and cleanse your dairies, Sluts are loathsome to the fairies;
Sweep your house; Who doth not so,
Mab will pinch her by the toe.
CEREMONY UPON CANDLEMAS EVE
Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas hall; That so the superstitious find
No 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.
CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMAS EVE
Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box, for show.
The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter’s eve appear.
Then youthful box, which now hath grace Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in, And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.
Green rushes then, and sweetest bents, With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold; New things succeed, as former things grow old.
THE CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMAS DAY
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn;
Which quench’d, then lay it up again, Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept, wherewith to teend The Christmas log next year;
And where ’tis safely kept, the fiend Can do no mischief there.
FAREWELL FROST, OR WELCOME SPRING
Fled are the frosts, and now the fields appear Reclothed in fresh and verdant diaper;
Thaw’d are the snows; and now the lusty Spring Gives to each mead a neat enamelling;
The palms put forth their gems, and every tree Now swaggers in her leafy gallantry.
The while the Daulian minstrel sweetly sings With warbling notes her Terean sufferings. –What gentle winds perspire! as if here Never had been the northern plunderer
To strip the trees and fields, to their distress, Leaving them to a pitied nakedness.
And look how when a frantic storm doth tear A stubborn oak or holm, long growing there,– But lull’d to calmness, then succeeds a breeze That scarcely stirs the nodding leaves of trees; So when this war, which tempest-like doth spoil Our salt, our corn, our honey, wine, and oil, Falls to a temper, and doth mildly cast
His inconsiderate frenzy off, at last, The gentle dove may, when these turmoils cease, Bring in her bill, once more, the branch of Peace.
TO THE MAIDS, TO WALK ABROAD
Come, sit we under yonder tree,
Where merry as the maids we’ll be;
And as on primroses we sit,
We’ll venture, if we can, at wit;
If not, at draw-gloves we will play, So spend some minutes of the day;
Or else spin out the thread of sands, Playing at questions and commands:
Or tell what strange tricks Love can do, By quickly making one of two.
Thus we will sit and talk, but tell No cruel truths of Philomel,
Or Phillis, whom hard fate forced on To kill herself for Demophon;
But fables we’ll relate; how Jove
Put on all shapes to get a Love;
As now a satyr, then a swan,
A bull but then, and now a man.
Next, we will act how young men woo, And sigh and kiss as lovers do;
And talk of brides; and who shall make That wedding-smock, this bridal-cake,
That dress, this sprig, that leaf, this vine, That smooth and silken columbine.
This done, we’ll draw lots who shall buy And gild the bays and rosemary;
What posies for our wedding rings;
What gloves we’ll give, and ribbonings; And smiling at our selves, decree
Who then the joining priest shall be; What short sweet prayers shall be said,
And how the posset shall be made
With cream of lilies, not of kine,
And maiden’s-blush for spiced wine. Thus having talk’d, we’ll next commend
A kiss to each, and so we’ll end.
CORINA’S GOING A MAYING
Get up, get up for shame! the blooming morn Upon her wings presents the god unshorn. See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air: Get up, sweet-slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept, and bow’d toward the east, Above an hour since; yet you not drest,
Nay! not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said, And sung their thankful hymns: ’tis sin, Nay, profanation, to keep in,–
Whenas a thousand virgins on this day, Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.
Rise; and put on your foliage, and be seen To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and green, And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your gown, or hair:
Fear not; the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept, Against you come, some orient pearls unwept: Come, and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night: And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying: Few beads are best, when once we go a Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark How each field turns a street; each street a park Made green, and trimm’d with trees: see how Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch: each porch, each door, ere this, An ark, a tabernacle is
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove; As if here were those cooler shades of love. Can such delights be in the street,
And open fields, and we not see’t?
Come, we’ll abroad: and let’s obey
The proclamation made for May:
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying; But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a Maying.
There’s not a budding boy, or girl, this day, But is got up, and gone to bring in May. A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home. Some have dispatch’d their cakes and cream, Before that we have left to dream:
And some have wept, and woo’d, and plighted troth, And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth: Many a green-gown has been given;
Many a kiss, both odd and even:
Many a glance, too, has been sent
From out the eye, love’s firmament: Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick’d:–yet we’re not a Maying.
–Come, let us go, while we are in our prime; And take the harmless folly of the time! We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short; and our days run As fast away as does the sun:–
And as a vapour, or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne’er be found again: So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade;
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drown’d with us in endless night. –Then while time serves, and we are but decaying, Come, my Corinna! come, let’s go a Maying.
The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I’ll drink to the garlands around it; But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown’d it.
A health to my girls,
Whose husbands may earls
Or lords be, granting my wishes,
And when that ye wed
To the bridal bed,
Then multiply all, like to fishes.
Come, Anthea, let us two
Go to feast, as others do:
Tarts and custards, creams and cakes, Are the junkets still at wakes;
Unto which the tribes resort,
Where the business is the sport:
Morris-dancers thou shalt see,
Marian, too, in pageantry;
And a mimic to devise
Many grinning properties.
Players there will be, and those
Base in action as in clothes;
Yet with strutting they will please The incurious villages.
Near the dying of the day
There will be a cudgel-play,
Where a coxcomb will be broke,
Ere a good word can be spoke:
But the anger ends all here,
Drench’d in ale, or drown’d in beer. –Happy rusticks! best content
With the cheapest merriment;
And possess no other fear,
Than to want the Wake next year.
THE HOCK-CART, OR HARVEST HOME:
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MILDMAY, EARL OF WESTMORLAND
Come, Sons of Summer, by whose toil
We are the lords of wine and oil:
By whose tough labours, and rough hands, We rip up first, then reap our lands.
Crown’d with the ears of corn, now come, And, to the pipe, sing Harvest Home.
Come forth, my lord, and see the cart Drest up with all the country art.
See, here a maukin, there a sheet,
As spotless pure, as it is sweet:
The horses, mares, and frisking fillies, Clad, all, in linen white as lilies.
The harvest swains and wenches bound For joy, to see the Hock-Cart crown’d.
About the cart, hear, how the rout
Of rural younglings raise the shout; Pressing before, some coming after,
Those with a shout, and these with laughter. Some bless the cart; some kiss the sheaves; Some prank them up with oaken leaves:
Some cross the fill-horse; some with great Devotion, stroke the home-borne wheat:
While other rustics, less attent
To prayers, than to merriment,
Run after with their breeches rent. –Well, on, brave boys, to your lord’s hearth, Glitt’ring with fire; where, for your mirth, Ye shall see first the large and chief
Foundation of your feast, fat beef; With upper stories, mutton, veal
And bacon, which makes full the meal, With sev’ral dishes standing by,
As here a custard, there a pie,
And here, all tempting frumenty.
And for to make the merry cheer,
If smirking wine be wanting here,
There’s that which drowns all care, stout beer: Which freely drink to your lord’s health Then to the plough, the common-wealth;
Next to your flails, your fanes, your vats; Then to the maids with wheaten hats:
To the rough sickle, and crookt scythe,– Drink, frolic, boys, till all be blythe. Feed, and grow fat; and as ye eat,
Be mindful, that the lab’ring neat, As you, may have their fill of meat.
And know, besides, ye must revoke
The patient ox unto the yoke,
And all go back unto the plough
And harrow, though they’re hang’d up now. And, you must know, your lord’s word’s true, Feed him ye must, whose food fills you;
And that this pleasure is like rain, Not sent ye for to drown your pain,
But for to make it spring again.
This day, my Julia, thou must make
For Mistress Bride the wedding-cake: Knead but the dough, and it will be
To paste of almonds turn’d by thee; Or kiss it thou but once or twice,
And for the bride-cake there’ll be spice.
THE OLD WIVES’ PRAYER
Holy-Rood, come forth and shield
Us i’ th’ city and the field;
Safely guard us, now and aye,
From the blast that burns by day;
And those sounds that us affright
In the dead of dampish night;
Drive all hurtful fiends us fro,
By the time the cocks first crow.
From noise of scare-fires rest ye free From murders, Benedicite;
From all mischances that may fright Your pleasing slumbers in the night
Mercy secure ye all, and keep
The goblin from ye, while ye sleep. –Past one a clock, and almost two,–
My masters all, ‘Good day to you.’
TO THE GENIUS OF HIS HOUSE
Command the roof, great Genius, and from thence Into this house pour down thy influence, That through each room a golden pipe may run Of living water by thy benizon;
Fulfil the larders, and with strength’ning bread Be ever-more these bins replenished.
Next, like a bishop consecrate my ground, That lucky fairies here may dance their round; And, after that, lay down some silver pence, The master’s charge and care to recompence. Charm then the chambers; make the beds for ease, More than for peevish pining sicknesses; Fix the foundation fast, and let the roof Grow old with time, but yet keep weather-proof.
HIS GRANGE, OR PRIVATE WEALTH
To tell how night draws hence, I’ve none, A cock
I have to sing how day draws on:
A maid, my Prue, by good luck sent, To save
That little, Fates me gave or lent. A hen
I keep, which, creeking day by day, Tells when
She goes her long white egg to lay: A goose
I have, which, with a jealous ear,
Her tongue, to tell what danger’s near. A lamb
I keep, tame, with my morsels fed,
An orphan left him, lately dead:
I keep, that plays about my house,
With eating many a miching mouse:
A Trasy I do keep, whereby
The more my rural privacy:
But toys, to give my heart some ease:– Where care
None is, slight things do lightly please.
A PASTORAL UPON THE BIRTH OF PRINCE CHARLES: PRESENTED TO THE KING, AND SET BY MR NIC. LANIERE
THE SPEAKERS: MIRTILLO, AMINTAS, AND AMARILLIS
AMIN. Good day, Mirtillo. MIRT. And to you no less; And all fair signs lead on our shepherdess. AMAR. With all white luck to you. MIRT. But say, What news
Stirs in our sheep-walk? AMIN. None, save that my ewes,
My wethers, lambs, and wanton kids are well, Smooth, fair, and fat; none better I can tell: Or that this day Menalchas keeps a feast For his sheep-shearers. MIRT. True, these are the least. But dear Amintas, and sweet Amarillis,
Rest but a while here by this bank of lilies; And lend a gentle ear to one report
The country has. AMIN. From whence? AMAR. From whence? MIRT. The Court.
Three days before the shutting-in of May, (With whitest wool be ever crown’d that day!) To all our joy, a sweet-faced child was born, More tender than the childhood of the morn. CHORUS:–Pan pipe to him, and bleats of lambs and sheep
Let lullaby the pretty prince asleep! MIRT. And that his birth should be more singular, At noon of day was seen a silver star,
Bright as the wise men’s torch, which guided them To God’s sweet babe, when born at Bethlehem; While golden angels, some have told to me, Sung out his birth with heav’nly minstrelsy. AMIN. O rare! But is’t a trespass, if we three Should wend along his baby-ship to see?
MIRT. Not so, not so. CHOR. But if it chance to prove At most a fault, ’tis but a fault of love. AMAR. But, dear Mirtillo, I have heard it told, Those learned men brought incense, myrrh, and gold, From countries far, with store of spices sweet, And laid them down for offerings at his feet. MIRT. ‘Tis true, indeed; and each of us will bring Unto our smiling and our blooming King,
A neat, though not so great an offering. AMAR. A garland for my gift shall be,
Of flowers ne’er suck’d by th’ thieving bee; And all most sweet, yet all less sweet than he. AMIN. And I will bear along with you
Leaves dropping down the honied dew, With oaten pipes, as sweet, as new.
MIRT. And I a sheep-hook will bestow To have his little King-ship know,
As he is Prince, he’s Shepherd too. CHOR. Come, let’s away, and quickly let’s be drest, And quickly give:–the swiftest grace is best. And when before him we have laid our treasures, We’ll bless the babe:–then back to country pleasures.
A DIALOGUE BETWIXT HIMSELF AND MISTRESS ELIZA WHEELER, UNDER THE NAME OF AMARILLIS
My dearest Love, since thou wilt go,
And leave me here behind thee;
For love or pity, let me know
The place where I may find thee.
AMARIL. In country meadows, pearl’d with dew, And set about with lilies;
There, filling maunds with cowslips, you May find your Amarillis.
HER. What have the meads to do with thee, Or with thy youthful hours?
Live thou at court, where thou mayst be The queen of men, not flowers.
Let country wenches make ’em fine
With posies, since ’tis fitter
For thee with richest gems to shine, And like the stars to glitter.
AMARIL. You set too-high a rate upon
A shepherdess so homely.
HER. Believe it, dearest, there’s not one I’ th’ court that’s half so comely.
I prithee stay. AMARIL. I must away;
Let’s kiss first, then we’ll sever; AMBO And though we bid adieu to day,
We shall not part for ever.
A BUCOLIC BETWIXT TWO;
LACON AND THYRSIS
LACON. For a kiss or two, confess,
What doth cause this pensiveness,
Thou most lovely neat-herdess?
Why so lonely on the hill?
Why thy pipe by thee so still,
That erewhile was heard so shrill?
Tell me, do thy kine now fail
To fulfil the milking-pail?
Say, what is’t that thou dost ail?
THYR. None of these; but out, alas!
A mischance is come to pass,
And I’ll tell thee what it was:
See, mine eyes are weeping ripe.
LACON. Tell, and I’ll lay down my pipe.
THYR. I have lost my lovely steer,
That to me was far more dear
Than these kine which I milk here;
Broad of forehead, large of eye,
Party-colour’d like a pye,
Smooth in each limb as a die;
Clear of hoof, and clear of horn,
Sharply pointed as a thorn;
With a neck by yoke unworn,
From the which hung down by strings, Balls of cowslips, daisy rings,
Interplaced with ribbonings;
Faultless every way for shape;
Not a straw could him escape,
Ever gamesome as an ape,
But yet harmless as a sheep.
Pardon, Lacon, if I weep;
Tears will spring where woes are deep. Now, ai me! ai me! Last night
Came a mad dog, and did bite,
Ay, and kill’d my dear delight.
LACON Alack, for grief!
THYR. But I’ll be brief.
Hence I must, for time doth call
Me, and my sad playmates all,
To his evening funeral.
Live long, Lacon; so adieu!
LACON Mournful maid, farewell to you; Earth afford ye flowers to strew!
A PASTORAL SUNG TO THE KING
MONTANO, SILVIO, AND MIRTILLO, SHEPHERDS
MON. Bad are the times. SIL. And worse than they are we. MON. Troth, bad are both; worse fruit, and ill the tree: The feast of shepherds fail. SIL. None crowns the cup Of wassail now, or sets the quintel up:
And he, who used to lead the country-round, Youthful Mirtillo, here he comes, grief-drown’d. AMBO. Let’s cheer him up. SIL. Behold him weeping-ripe. MIRT. Ah, Amarillis! farewell mirth and pipe; Since thou art gone, no more I mean to play To these smooth lawns, my mirthful roundelay. Dear Amarillis! MON. Hark! SIL. Mark! MIRT. This earth grew sweet
Where, Amarillis, thou didst set thy feet. AMBO Poor pitied youth! MIRT. And here the breath of kine
And sheep grew more sweet by that breath of thine. This dock of wool, and this rich lock of hair, This ball of cowslips, these she gave me here. SIL. Words sweet as love itself. MON. Hark!– MIRT. This way she came, and this way too she went; How each thing smells divinely redolent! Like to a field of beans, when newly blown, Or like a meadow being lately mown.
MON. A sweet sad passion—-
MIRT. In dewy mornings, when she came this way, Sweet bents would bow, to give my Love the day; And when at night she folded had her sheep, Daisies would shut, and closing, sigh and weep. Besides (Ai me!) since she went hence to dwell, The Voice’s Daughter ne’er spake syllable. But she is gone. SIL. Mirtillo, tell us whither? MIRT. Where she and I shall never meet together. MON. Fore-fend it, Pan! and Pales, do thou please To give an end… MIRT. To what? SIL. Such griefs as these.
MIRT. Never, O never! Still I may endure The wound I suffer, never find a cure.
MON. Love, for thy sake, will bring her to these hills And dales again. MIRT. No, I will languish still; And all the while my part shall be to weep; And with my sighs call home my bleating sheep; And in the rind of every comely tree
I’ll carve thy name, and in that name kiss thee. MON. Set with the sun, thy woes! SIL. The day grows old;
And time it is our full-fed flocks to fold. CHOR. The shades grow great; but greater grows our sorrow:–
But let’s go steep
Our eyes in sleep;
And meet to weep
TO THE WILLOW-TREE
Thou art to all lost love the best,
The only true plant found,
Wherewith young men and maids distrest And left of love, are crown’d.
When once the lover’s rose is dead
Or laid aside forlorn,
Then willow-garlands, ’bout the head, Bedew’d with tears, are worn.
When with neglect, the lover’s bane,
Poor maids rewarded be,
For their love lost their only gain Is but a wreath from thee.
And underneath thy cooling shade,
When weary of the light,
The love-spent youth, and love-sick maid, Come to weep out the night.
THE FAIRY TEMPLE; OR, OBERON’S CHAPEL
DEDICATED TO MR JOHN MERRIFIELD,
COUNSELLOR AT LAW
RARE TEMPLES THOU HAST SEEN, I KNOW,
AND RICH FOR IN AND OUTWARD SHOW;
SURVEY THIS CHAPEL BUILT, ALONE,
WITHOUT OR LIME, OR WOOD, OR STONE. THEN SAY, IF ONE THOU’ST SEEN MORE FINE
THAN THIS, THE FAIRIES’ ONCE, NOW THINE.
A way enchaced with glass and beads
There is, that to the Chapel leads; Whose structure, for his holy rest,
Is here the Halcyon’s curious nest; Into the which who looks, shall see
His Temple of Idolatry;
Where he of god-heads has such store, As Rome’s Pantheon had not more.
His house of Rimmon this he calls,
Girt with small bones, instead of walls. First in a niche, more black than jet,
His idol-cricket there is set;
Then in a polish’d oval by
There stands his idol-beetle-fly;
Next, in an arch, akin to this,
His idol-canker seated is.
Then in a round, is placed by these His golden god, Cantharides.
So that where’er ye look, ye see
No capital, no cornice free,
Or frieze, from this fine frippery. Now this the Fairies would have known,
Theirs is a mixt religion:
And some have heard the elves it call Part Pagan, part Papistical.
If unto me all tongues were granted, I could not speak the saints here painted. Saint Tit, Saint Nit, Saint Is, Saint Itis, Who ‘gainst Mab’s state placed here right is. Saint Will o’ th’ Wisp, of no great bigness, But, alias, call’d here FATUUS IGNIS.
Saint Frip, Saint Trip, Saint Fill, Saint Filly;– Neither those other saint-ships will I
Here go about for to recite
Their number, almost infinite;
Which, one by one, here set down are In this most curious calendar.
First, at the entrance of the gate,
A little puppet-priest doth wait,
Who squeaks to all the comers there, ‘Favour your tongues, who enter here.
‘Pure hands bring hither, without stain.’ A second pules, ‘Hence, hence, profane!’ Hard by, i’ th’ shell of half a nut,
The holy-water there is put;
A little brush of squirrels’ hairs, Composed of odd, not even pairs,
Stands in the platter, or close by, To purge the fairy family.
Near to the altar stands the priest, There offering up the holy-grist;
Ducking in mood and perfect tense,
With (much good do’t him) reverence. The altar is not here four-square,
Nor in a form triangular;
Nor made of glass, or wood, or stone, But of a little transverse bone;
Which boys and bruckel’d children call (Playing for points and pins) cockall.
Whose linen-drapery is a thin,
Subtile, and ductile codling’s skin; Which o’er the board is smoothly spread
With little seal-work damasked.
The fringe that circumbinds it, too, Is spangle-work of trembling dew,
Which, gently gleaming, makes a show, Like frost-work glitt’ring on the snow.
Upon this fetuous board doth stand
Something for shew-bread, and at hand (Just in the middle of the altar)
Upon an end, the Fairy-psalter,
Graced with the trout-flies’ curious wings, Which serve for watchet ribbonings.
Now, we must know, the elves are led Right by the Rubric, which they read:
And if report of them be true,
They have their text for what they do; Ay, and their book of canons too.
And, as Sir Thomas Parson tells,
They have their book of articles;
And if that Fairy knight not lies
They have their book of homilies;
And other Scriptures, that design
A short, but righteous discipline.
The bason stands the board upon
To take the free-oblation;
A little pin-dust, which they hold
More precious than we prize our gold; Which charity they give to many
Poor of the parish, if there’s any. Upon the ends of these neat rails,
Hatch’d with the silver-light of snails, The elves, in formal manner, fix
Two pure and holy candlesticks,
In either which a tall small bent
Burns for the altar’s ornament.
For sanctity, they have, to these,
Their curious copes and surplices
Of cleanest cobweb, hanging by
In their religious vestery.
They have their ash-pans and their brooms, To purge the chapel and the rooms;
Their many mumbling mass-priests here, And many a dapper chorister.
Their ush’ring vergers here likewise, Their canons and their chaunteries;
Of cloister-monks they have enow,
Ay, and their abbey-lubbers too:–
And if their legend do not lie,
They much affect the papacy;
And since the last is dead, there’s hope Elve Boniface shall next be Pope.
They have their cups and chalices,
Their pardons and indulgences,
Their beads of nits, bells, books, and wax- Candles, forsooth, and other knacks;
Their holy oil, their fasting-spittle, Their sacred salt here, not a little.
Dry chips, old shoes, rags, grease, and bones, Beside their fumigations.
Many a trifle, too, and trinket,
And for what use, scarce man would think it. Next then, upon the chanter’s side
An apple’s-core is hung up dried,
With rattling kernels, which is rung To call to morn and even-song.
The saint, to which the most he prays And offers incense nights and days,
The lady of the lobster is,
Whose foot-pace he doth stroke and kiss, And, humbly, chives of saffron brings
For his most cheerful offerings.
When, after these, he’s paid his vows, He lowly to the altar bows;
And then he dons the silk-worm’s shed, Like a Turk’s turban on his head,
And reverently departeth thence,
Hid in a cloud of frankincense;
And by the glow-worm’s light well guided, Goes to the Feast that’s now provided.
SHAPCOT! TO THE THE FAIRY STATE
I WITH DISCRETION DEDICATE:
BECAUSE THOU PRIZEST THINGS THAT ARE CURIOUS AND UNFAMILIAR.
TAKE FIRST THE FEAST; THESE DISHES GONE, WE’LL SEE THE FAIRY COURT ANON.
A little mushroom-table spread,
After short prayers, they set on bread, A moon-parch’d grain of purest wheat,
With some small glitt’ring grit, to eat His choice bits with; then in a trice
They make a feast less great than nice. But all this while his eye is served,
We must not think his ear was sterved; But that there was in place to stir
His spleen, the chirring grasshopper, The merry cricket, puling fly,
The piping gnat for minstrelsy.
And now, we must imagine first,
The elves present, to quench his thirst, A pure seed-pearl of infant dew,
Brought and besweeten’d in a blue
And pregnant violet; which done,
His kitling eyes begin to run
Quite through the table, where he spies The horns of papery butterflies,
Of which he eats; and tastes a little Of that we call the cuckoo’s spittle;
A little fuz-ball pudding stands
By, yet not blessed by his hands,
That was too coarse; but then forthwith He ventures boldly on the pith
Of sugar’d rush, and eats the sagge And well-bestrutted bees’ sweet bag;
Gladding his palate with some store Of emmets’ eggs; what would he more?
But beards of mice, a newt’s stew’d thigh, A bloated earwig, and a fly;
With the red-capt worm, that’s shut Within the concave of a nut,
Brown as his tooth. A little moth,
Late fatten’d in a piece of cloth;
With wither’d cherries, mandrakes’ ears, Moles’ eyes: to these the slain stag’s tears; The unctuous dewlaps of a snail,
The broke-heart of a nightingale
O’ercome in music; with a wine
Ne’er ravish’d from the flattering vine, But gently prest from the soft side
Of the most sweet and dainty bride, Brought in a dainty daisy, which
He fully quaffs up, to bewitch
His blood to height; this done, commended Grace by his priest; The feast is ended.
THE BEGGAR TO MAB, THE FAIRY QUEEN
Please your Grace, from out your store Give an alms to one that’s poor,
That your mickle may have more.
Black I’m grown for want of meat,
Give me then an ant to eat,
Or the cleft ear of a mouse
Over-sour’d in drink of souce;
Or, sweet lady, reach to me
The abdomen of a bee;
Or commend a cricket’s hip,
Or his huckson, to my scrip;
Give for bread, a little bit
Of a pease that ‘gins to chit,
And my full thanks take for it.
Flour of fuz-balls, that’s too good For a man in needy-hood;
But the meal of mill-dust can
Well content a craving man;
Any orts the elves refuse
Well will serve the beggar’s use.
But if this may seem too much
For an alms, then give me such
Little bits that nestle there
In the pris’ner’s pannier.
So a blessing light upon
You, and mighty Oberon;
That your plenty last till when
I return your alms again.
The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride,
The devil and she together;
Through thick and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne’er so foul be the weather.
A thorn or a bur
She takes for a spur;
With a lash of a bramble she rides now, Through brakes and through briars,
O’er ditches and mires,
She follows the spirit that guides now.
No beast, for his food,
Dares now range the wood,
But hush’d in his lair he lies lurking; While mischiefs, by these,