1648
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Nuptiall Song, or Epithalamie, on Sir Clipseby Crew and his Lady.

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

Rev. Robert Herrick


An epithalamium in sixteen stanzas that owes more to the epithalamic tradition generally than to Spenser in particular. Herrick's Hesperides, highly regarded in recent times, was neglected or disparaged well into the nineteenth century. In 1818 a copy belonging to the playwright and editor Francis Godolphin Waldron was auctioned for £2, quite average for a seventeenth-century book; see British Stage and Literary Cabinet 2 (June 1818) 127.

Virginia Tufte: "Herrick's poems, mainly in the Catullan stream, are indebted also to Jonson's nuptial masques, and Herrick's preoccupation with the bridal bed is akin to that which we have already noted in the epithalamia of Donne. All of his five poems demonstrate that an inventive poet may still give life to old motifs" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 243.

Robert Southey: "Herrick has noticed more old customs and vulgar superstitions than any other of our poets, and this is almost the only value of his verses. I question whether any other poet ever thought it worth while to preserve so many mere scraps, and of such very trash" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:305. Yet Southey's commonplace book overgoes Herrick in the collection of such minutiae, much of it drawn from seventeenth-century writers like Herrick, Quarles, and Wither.

George Saintsbury: "Herrick's charm is everywhere — except in the epigrams. It is very rare to find one of the hundreds of little poems which form his book destitute of the peculiar touch of phrasing, the eternising influence of style, which characterises the poetry of this particular period so remarkably. The subject may be the merest trifle, the thought a hackneyed or insignificant one. But the amber to enshrine the fly is always there in a larger or smaller, in clearer or more clouded, shape. There has often been a certain contempt ... flavouring critical notices of Herrick. I do not think that any one who judges poetry as poetry, who keeps its several kinds apart and does not demand epic graces in lyric, dramatic substance in anthologia, could ever feel or hint such a contempt. Whatever Herrick may have been as a man (of which we know very little, and for which we need care less), he was a most exquisite and complete poet in his own way, neither was that way one to be lightly spoken of" History of Elizabethan Literature (1887; 1909) 358-59.



1.
Bloom'd from the East, or faire Injewel'd May
Blowne out of April; or some New-
Star fill'd with glory to our view,
Reaching at heaven,
To adde a nobler Planet to the seven?
Say, or doe we not descrie
Some Goddesse, in a cloud of Tiffanie
To move, or rather the
Emergent Venus from the Sea?

2.
'Tis she! 'tis she! or else some more Divine
Enlightned substance; mark how from the Shrine
Of holy Saints she paces on,
Treading upon Vermilion
And Amber; Spice-
ing the Chaste Aire with fumes of Paradise.
Then come on, come on, and yeeld
A savour like unto a blessed field,
When the bedabled Morne
Washes the golden eares of corne.

3.
See where she comes; and smell how all the street
Breathes Vine-yards and Pomgranats: O how sweet!
As a fir'd Altar, is each stone,
Perspiring pounded Cynamon.
The Phenix nest,
Built up of odours, burneth in her breast.
Who therein wo'd not consume
His soule to Ash-heaps in that rich perfume?
Bestroaking Fate the while
He burnes to Embers on the Pile.

4.
Himen, O Himen! Tread the sacred ground;
Shew thy white feet, and head with Marjoram crown'd:
Mount up thy flames, and let thy Torch
Display the Bridegroom in the porch,
In his desires
More towring, more disparkling then thy fires:
Shew her how his eyes do turne
And roule about, and in their motions burne
Their balls to Cindars: haste,
Or else to ashes he will waste.

5.
Glide by the banks of Virgins then, and passe
The Shewers of Roses, lucky-foure-leav'd grasse:
The while the cloud of younglings sing,
And drown yee with a flowrie Spring:
While some repeat
Your praise, and bless you, sprinkling you with Wheat:
While that others doe divine;
Blest is the Bride, on whom the Sun doth shine;
And thousands gladly wish
You multiply, as doth a Fish.

6.
And beautious Bride we do confess y'are wise,
In dealing forth these bashfull jealousies:
In Lov's name do so; and a price
Set on your selfe, by being nice:
But yet take heed;
What now you seem, be not the same indeed,
And turne Apostate: Love will
Part of the way be met; or sit stone-still.
On then, and though you slow-
ly go, yet, howsoever, go.

7.
And now y'are enter'd; see the Codled Cook
Runs from his Torrid Zone, to prie, and look,
And blesse his dainty Mistresse: see,
The Aged point out, This is she,
Who now must sway
The House (Love shield her) with her Yea and Nay:
And the smirk Butler thinks it
Sin, in's Nap'rie, not to express his wit;
Each striving to devise
Some gin, wherewith to catch your eyes.

8.
To bed, to bed, kind Turtles, now, and write
This the short'st day, and this the longest night;
But yet too short for you: 'tis we,
Who count this night as long as three,
Lying alone,
Telling the Clock strike Ten, Eleven, Twelve, One.
Quickly, quickly then prepare;
And let the Young-men and the Bride-maids share
Your Garters; and their joynts
Encircle with the Bride-grooms Points.

9.
By the Brides eyes, and by the teeming life
Of her green hopes, we charge ye, that no strife,
(Farther then Gentlenes tends) gets place
Among ye, striving for her lace:
O doe not fall
Foule in these noble pastimes, lest ye call
Discord in, and so divide
The youthfull Bride-groom, and the fragrant Bride:
Which Love fore-fend; but spoken
Be't to your praise, no peace was broken.

10.
Strip her of Spring-time, tender-whimpring-maids,
Now Autumne's come, when all those flowrie aids
Of her Delayes must end; Dispose
That Lady-smock, that Pansie, and that Rose
Neatly apart;
But for Prick-madam, and for Gentle-heart;
And soft — Maidens — blush, the Bride
Makes holy these, all others lay aside:
Then strip her, or unto her
Let him come, who dares undo her.

11.
And to enchant yee more, see every where
About the Roofe a Syren in a Sphere;
(As we think) singing to the dinne
Of many a warbling Cherubim:
O marke yee how
The soule of Nature melts in numbers: now
See, a thousand Cupids flye,
To light their Tapers at the Brides bright eye.
To Bed; or her they'l tire,
Were she an Element of fire.

12.
And to your more bewitching, see, the proud
Plumpe Bed beare up, and swelling like a cloud,
Tempting the two too modest; can
Yee see it brusle like a Swan,
And you be cold
To meet it, when it woo's and seemes to fold
The Armes to hugge it? throw, throw
Your selves into the mighty over-flow
Of that white Pride, and Drowne
The night, with you, in floods of Downe.

13.
The bed is ready, and the maze of Love
Lookes for the treaders; every where is wove
Wit and new misterie; read, and
Put in practise, to understand
And know each wile,
Each hieroglyphick of a kisse or smile;
And do it to the full; reach
High in your own conceipt, and some way teach
Nature and Art, one more
Play then they ever knew before.

14.
If needs we must for Ceremonies-sake,
Blesse a Sack-posset; Luck go with it; take
The Night-Charme quickly; you have spells,
And magicks for to end, and hells,
To passe; but such
And of such Torture as no one would grutch
To live therein for ever: Frie
And consume, and grow again to die,
And live, and in that case,
Love the confusion of the place.

15.
But since It must be done, dispatch, and sowe
Up in a sheet your Bride, and what if so
It be with Rock, or walles of Brasse,
Ye Towre her up, as Danae was;
Thinke you that this,
Or hell it selfe a powerfull Bulwarke is?
I tell yee no; but like a
Bold bolt of thunder he will make his way,
And rend the cloud, and throw
The sheet about, like flakes of snow.

16.
All now is husht in silence; Midwife-moone,
With all her Owle-ey'd issue begs a boon
Which you must grant; that's entrance; with
Which extract, all we can call pith
And quintiscence
Of Planetary bodies; so commence
All faire Constellations
Looking upon yee, That two Nations
Springing from two such Fires,
May blaze the vertue of their Sires.

[pp. 128-33]