1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Herrick

William Hazlitt, in Lectures chiefly on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (1820; 1845) 157.



Herrick is a writer who does not answer the expectations I had formed of him. He is in a manner a modern discovery, and so far has the freshness of antiquity about him. He is not trite and thread-bare. But neither is he likely to become so. He is a writer of epigrams, not of lyrics. He has point and ingenuity, but I think little of the spirit of love or wine. From his frequent allusion to pearls and rubies, one might take him for a lapidary instead of a poet. One of his pieces is entitled The Rock of Rubies and the Quarries of Pearls.

Some ask'd me where the rubies grew;
And nothing did I say;
But with my finger pointed to
The lips of Julia.

Some ask'd how pearls did grow, and where;
Then spoke I to my girl
To part her lips, and show them there
The quarrelets of pearl.

Now this is making a petrifaction of both love and poetry. His poems, from their number and size, are "like the moats that play in the sun's beams;" that glitter to the eye of fancy, but leave no distinct impression on the memory.