1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Herrick

Thomas Campbell, in "Essay on English Poetry" Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1841) lxxx.



Herrick, if we were to fix our eyes on a small portion of his works, might be pronounced a writer of delightful Anacreontic spirit. He has passages where the thoughts seem to dance into numbers from his very heart, and where he frolics like a being made up of melody and pleasure; as when he sings,—

Gather ye rose-buds while ye mady,
Old Time is still a flying;
And this same flower that blossoms to-day,
To-morrow will be dying.

In the same spirit are his verses to Anthea, concluding—

Thou art my life, my love, my heart,
The very eyes of me;
And hast command of every part,
To live and die for thee.

But his beauties are so deeply involved in surrounding coarseness and extravagance, as to constitute not a tenth part of his poetry; or rather it may be safely affirmed, that of 1400 pages of verse which he has left, not a hundred are worth reading.