1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Herrick

Leviter-Eruditus, "Herrick" Gentleman's Magazine 66 (August 1796) 645.



Aug. 6.

Mr. URBAN,

Your correspondent Eugenio, p. 461, has combined, from Rymer and Granger, a more satisfactory account of Robert Herrick than the Oxford Historian afforded. In confirmation of its accuracy, the following lines may be adduced from Hesperides, p. 375, which point out the author's birth-place, and his mother's Christian name:

The golden CHEAP-SIDE, where the earth
Of JULIA Herrick gave me birth.

The Latin lines under his portrait are signed I. H. C. Qu. whom? — Herrick was a contributor to the "Lachrymae Musarum, exprest in Elegies upon the Death of Henry, Lord Hastings," 1650. His poem, which appears in form of a dialogue, is termed "The new Charon," and a very poor performance. Mr. Ellis, in his Specimens of early English Poets, has remarked, that two little pieces, the Primrose and the Inquiry, which were printed with Carew's Poems, occur again in Herrick's. The former I have traced there, but not the latter. His "Noble Numbers, or pious Pieces," though appended to Hesperides, seem to have formed a distinct publication, and bear date a year earlier, viz. 1647. Edw. Phillips sneeringly hints, that his Muse of inspiration was his maid Prue, who is complimented for her faithful services to him in the winter of adversity (Hesp. p. 175); but he admits that "a pretty floury and pastoral gale of fancy, a vernal prospect of some hills, cave, rock, or fountain, but for the interruption of other trivial passages, might have made up none of the worst poetic landskips. (Theatr. Poet. p. 162). This judgment appears tolerably just; for, his poems form a most heterogeneous mass, comprising verses in all shapes, and almost on all subjects. In some of them he has mimicked Milton's L'Allegro not unsuccessfully; and, in an obvious parody on Marlow's Passionate Shepherd, has kept up the pastoral naivete of the original. Several of his Epigrams possess much point, with a very judicious merit in such compositions, brevity, "Gather ye rose-buds while ye may," which has been sweetly adapted as a glee, is one of his Lyric effusions. For this species of versification he is alluded to in a quaint Satire, called Naps upon Parnassus, &c. 1658:

—Flaccus Horace,
He was but a sowr-ass,
And good for nothing but Lyrick;
There's but one to be found
In all English ground
Writes as well; — who is hight Robert Herrick.

And, in Musarum Deliciae, 1655, it is said of him,

—old sack
Young Herric took to entertaine
The Muses in a sprightly vein.
P. 2.

In consonance with which, he makes "the Apparition of his Mistress" say,

I'll bring thee, Herric, to Anacreon,
Quaffing his full-crown'd bowls of burning wine,
And, in his raptures, speaking lines of thine
Like to his subject.
Hesp. p. 241.

Three different epitaphs upon himself occur at pp. 17, 253, and 286, of his Poems.