1648
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Epithalamie to Sir Thomas Southwell and his Ladie.

Hesperides: or the Works both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, Esq.

Rev. Robert Herrick


Virginia Tufte: Robert "Herrick's Southwell epithalamium, like Spenser's and others, offers marriage as a device to thwart time and mutability. It is probably no accident that in the 1648 edition of Hesperides the stanzas of the epithalamium are altar-shaped, for Herrick's arrangement of lines is often functional, even in poems which are not obviously shaped" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 249.

Nathan Drake: "One chief cause of the neglect into which the poetry of Herrick has fallen, is its extreme inequality, it would appear he thought it necessary to publish every thing he composed, however trivial, however ridiculous or indecorous. The consequence has been, that productions, which Marlowe or Milton might have owned with pleasure, have been concealed, and nearly buried, in a crude and undigested mass. Had he shewn any taste in selection, I have no doubt the fate of his volume, though reduced two thirds of it present size, had been widely different. Perhaps there is no collection of poetry in our language, which, in some respects, more nearly resembles the Carmina of Catullus. It abounds in Epigrams disgusting and indecent, in satirical delineations of personal defects, in frequent apologies for the levity of his Muse, and repeated declarations of the chastity of his life; it is interspersed, also, with several exquisite pieces of the amatory and descriptive kind, and with numerous addresses to his friends and relations, by whom be appears to have been greatly beloved. The variety of metre he has used in this work is truly astonishing; he has almost exhausted every form of rhymed versification, and in many he moves with singular ease and felicity" Literary Hours (1804) 3:45-46.

Edmund Gosse: "There is not a sunnier book in the world than the Hesperides. To open it is to enter a rich garden on a summer afternoon, and to smell the perfume of a wealth of flowers and warm herbs and ripening fruits. The poet sings, in short flights of song, of all that makes life gay and luxurious, of the freshness of a dewy field, of the fecundity and heat of harvest, of the odour and quietude of an autumn orchard. All the innocent pastimes of the people find a laureate in him, his Muse disdains no circumstance of rural holiday, and is more than ready to accompany him to country wakes and races, to the riot of the hay-field and the may-pole, to the village bridal and to the crowning of the hock-cart. She presides with him at the mixing of a wedding-cake or of a spicy wassail-bowl, and lends her presence to the celebration of the humblest rites of rural superstition" The English Poets, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward (1880) 2:127.

W. J. Courthope: "Robert Herrick, son of Nicholas Herrick, sprung of an old family in Leicestershire, was born, or at least baptised, in London in 1591. His father (who died the year after his birth) was a goldsmith in the city; his mother's name was Julian Stone. He was educated first (probably) at Westminster, and after having been bound apprentice in 1607 to his uncle, William (afterwards Sir William) Herrick, a goldsmith in Cheapside, was entered as a Fellow Commoner at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1613. A number of his letters remain, written from Cambridge to his uncle, who seems to have been left as his guardian. The invariable refrain of these is — to use his own phrases — 'Mitte pecuniam'; and he apparently met with great difficulty in procuring from Sir William the necessary means of support. He took his degree of B.A. in 1617 from Trinity Hall, whither he had removed for the purpose of studying law, and became M.A. in 1620. From that date till 1629, when he was appointed to the living of Dean Prior in Devonshire, his life is without a record; but it is easy to gather from his verse that he mixed much in the company of Ben Jonson, and that his fame as a song-writer was established at Court. He left the gay society of London with reluctance.... His life in his vicarage was never agreeable to him: he seems to have disliked his parishioners, against whom he wrote several epigrams; he he allows that the country inspired him with some of his best poetry" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 3:253-54.

F. W. Moorman: "His allegiance to the ancient world is likewise manifest in his poetic art. The Spenserian tradition, with its Italian grace and slow-moving cadences, made no appeal to him; and, almost alone of the Caroline lyrists, he refused to bow the knee to the metaphysic wit and perverse ingenuity of Donne. In all that pertained to verse and diction, Herrick was the disciple of Jonson, and, through him, of the great lyrists of antiquity" Cambridge History of English Literature (1911) 7:11.

On the Spenser allusions, see "Epithalamion and Prothalamion" MLN 76 (1961) 208.



I.
Now, now's the time; so oft by truth
Promis'd sho'd come to crown your youth.
Then Faire ones, doe not wrong
Your joyes, by staying long:
Or let Love's fire goe out,
By lingring thus in doubt:
But learn, that Time once lost,
Is ne'r redeem'd by cost.
Then away; come, Hymen guide
To the bed, the bashfull Bride.

II.
Is it (sweet maid) your fault these holy
Bridall-Rites goe on so slowly?
Deare, is it this you dread,
The losse of Maiden-head?
Beleeve me; you will most
Esteeme it when 'tis lost:
Then it no longer keep,
Lest Issue lye asleep.
Then away; come, Hymen guide
To the bed, the bashfull Bride.

III.
These Precious-Pearly-Purling teares,
But spring from ceremonious feares.
And 'tis but Native shame,
That hides the loving flame:
And may a while controule
The soft and am'rous soule;
But yet, Loves fire will wast
Such bashfulnesse at last.
Then away; come, Hymen guide
To the bed, the bashfull Bride.

IV.
Night now hath watch'd her self half blind;
Yet not a Maiden-head resign'd!
'Tis strange, ye will not flie
To Love's sweet mysterie.
Might yon Full-Moon the sweets
Have, promis'd to your sheets;
She soon wo'd leave her spheare,
To be admitted there.
Then away; come, Hymen guide
To the bed, the bashfull Bride.

V.
On, on devoutly, make no stay;
While Domiduca leads the way:
And Genius who attends
The bed for luckie ends:
With Juno goes the houres,
And Graces strewing flowers.
And the boyes with sweet tunes sing,
Hymen, O Hymen bring
Home the Turtles; Hymen guide
To the bed, the bashfull Bride.

VI.
Behold! how Hymens Taper-light
Shews you how much is spent of night.
See, see the Bride-grooms Torch
Halfe wasted in the porch.
And now those Tapers five,
That shew the womb shall thrive:
Their silv'rie flames advance,
To tell all prosp'rous chance
Still shall crown the happy life
Of the good man and the wife.

VII.
Move forward then your Rosie feet,
And make, what ere they touch, turn sweet.
May all, like flowrie Meads
Smell, where your soft foot treads;
And every thing assume
To it, the like perfume:
As Zephirus when he 'spires
Through Woodbine, and Sweet-bryers.
Then away; come Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashfull Bride.

VIII.
And now the yellow Vaile, at last,
Over her fragrant cheek is cast.
Now seems she to expresse
A bashfull willingnesse:
Shewing a heart consenting;
As with a will repenting.
Then gently lead her on
With wise suspicion:
For that, Matrons say, a measure
Of that Passion sweetens Pleasure.

IX.
You, you that be of her neerest kin,
Now o're the threshold force her in.
But to avert the worst;
Let her, her fillets first
Knit to the posts: this point
Remembring, to anoint
The sides: for 'tis a charme
Strong against future harme:
And the evil deads, the which
There was hidden by the Witch.

X.
O Venus! thou, to whom is known
The best way how to loose the Zone
Of Virgins! Tell the Maid,
She need not be afraid:
And bid the Youth apply
Close kisses, if she cry:
And charge, he not forbears
Her, though she wooe with teares.
Tel them, now they must adventer,
Since that Love and Night bid enter.

XI.
No Fatal Owle the Bedsted keeps,
With direful notes to fright your sleeps:
No Furies, here about,
To put the Tapers out,
Watch, or did make the bed:
'Tis Omen full of dread:
But all faire signs appeare
Within the Chamber here.
Juno here, far off, doth stand
Cooling sleep with charming wand.

XII.
Virgins, weep not; 'twill come, when,
As she, so you'l be ripe for men.
Then grieve her not, with saying
She must no more a Maying:
Or by Rose-buds devine,
Who'l be her Valentine.
Nor name those wanton reaks
Y'ave had at Barly-breaks.
But now kisse her, and thus say,
Take time Lady while ye may.

XIII.
Now barre the doors, the Bride-groom puts
The eager Boyes to gather Nuts.
And now, both Love and Time
To their full height doe clime:
O! give them active heat
And moisture, both compleat:
Fit Organs for encrease,
To keep, and to release
That, which may the honour'd Stem
Circle with a Diadem.

XIV.
And now, Behold! the Bed or Couch
That ne'r knew Brides, or Bride-grooms touch,
Feels in it selfe a fire;
And tickled with Desire,
Pants with a Downie brest,
As with a heart possest:
Shrugging as it did move,
Ev'n with the soule of love.
And (oh!) had it but a tongue,
Doves, 'two'd say, yee bill too long.

XV.
O enter then! but see ye shun
A sleep, untill the act be done.
Let kisses, in their close,
Breathe as the Damask Rose:
Or sweet, as is that gumme
Doth from Panchaia come.
Teach Nature now to know,
Lips can make Cherries grow
Sooner, then she, ever yet,
In her wisdome co'd beget.

XVI.
On your minutes, hours, dayes, months, years,
Drop the fat blessing of the sphears.
That good, which Heav'n can give
To make you bravely live;
Fall, like a spangling dew,
By day, and night on you.
May Fortunes Lilly-hand
Open at your command;
With all luckie Birds to side
With the Bride-groom, and the Bride.

XVII.
Let bounteous Fate your spindles full
Fill, and winde up with whitest wooll.
Let them not cut the thred
Of life, untill ye bid.
May Death yet come at last;
And not with desp'rate hast:
But when ye both can say,
Come, Let us now away.
Be ye to the Barn then born,
Two, like two ripe shocks of corn.

[pp. 57-62]