Robert Herrick, 1591-1674

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Biographical note

Poet, born in London, was apprenticed as a goldsmith to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, with whom he remained for 10 years. Thereafter he went to Cambridge, took orders, and was in 1629 presented by Charles I. to the living of Dean Prior, a remote parish in Devonshire, from which he was ejected in 1647, returning in 1662. In the interval he appears to have lived in Westminster, probably supported, more or less, by the gifts of wealthy Royalists. His Noble Numbers or Pious Pieces was published in 1647, his Hesperides or Works both Human and Divine in 1648, and the two together in one vol. in the latter year. Over 60, however, of the lighter poems included in Hesperides had previously appeared anonymously in a collection entitled Wit’s Recreations. Herrick’s early life in London had been a free one, and his secular poems, in which he appears much more at ease than in his sacred, show him to have been a thorough Epicurean, though he claims that his life was not to be judged by his muse. As a lyric poet Herrick stands in the front rank for sweetness, grace, and true poetic fire, and some of his love songs, e.g. Anthea, and Gather ye Rose-buds, are unsurpassed in their kind; while in such exquisite little poems as Blossoms, Daffodils, and others he finds a classic expression for his love of nature and country life. In his epigrams, however, he falls much below himself. He has been described as “the most frankly pagan of English poets.”

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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