Whose head, befringed with bescattered tresses,
Shows like Apollo’s when the morn he dresses,1
Or like Aurora when with pearl she sets
Her long, dishevell’d, rose-crown’d trammelets:
Her forehead smooth, full, polish’d, bright and high
Bears in itself a graceful majesty,
Under the which two crawling eyebrows twine
Like to the tendrils of a flatt’ring vine,
Under whose shade two starry sparkling eyes
Are beautifi’d with fair fring’d canopies.
Her comely nose, with uniformal grace,
Like purest white, stands in the middle place,
Parting the pair, as we may well suppose.
Each cheek resembling still a damask rose,
Which like a garden manifestly show
How roses, lilies, and carnations grow,
Which sweetly mixed both with white and red,
Like rose leaves, white and red, seem2 mingled.
Then nature for a sweet allurement sets
Two smelling, swelling, bashful cherrylets,
The which with ruby redness being tipp’d,
Do speak a virgin, merry, cherry-lipp’d.
Over the which a neat, sweet skin is drawn,
Which makes them show like roses under lawn:
These be the ruby portals, and divine,
Which ope themselves to show a holy shrine
Whose breath is rich perfume, that to the sense
Smells like the burn’d Sabean frankincense:
In which the tongue, though but a member small,
Stands guarded with a rosy-hilly wall;
And her white teeth, which in the gums are set
Like pearl and gold, make one rich cabinet.
Next doth her chin with dimpled beauty strive
For his white, plump, and smooth prerogative;
At whose fair top, to please the sight, there grows
The fairest3 image of a blushing rose,
Mov’d by the chin, whose motion causeth this,
That both her lips do part, do meet, do kiss;
Her ears, which like two labyrinths are plac’d
On either side, with rich rare jewels grac’d,
Moving a question whether that by them
The gem is grac’d, or they grac’d by the gem.
But the foundation of the architect
Is the swan-staining, fair, rare, stately neck
Which with ambitious humbleness stands under,
Bearing aloft this rich, round world of wonder.
Her breast, a place for beauty’s throne most fit,
Bears up two globes where love and pleasure sit,
Which, headed with two rich, round rubies, show
Like wanton rosebuds growing out of snow;
And in the milky valley that’s between
Sits Cupid, kissing of his mother queen,
Fingering the paps that feel like sieved silk,
And press’d a little they will weep pure milk.
Then comes the belly, seated next below,
Like a fair mountain in Riphean snow,
Where Nature, in a whiteness without spot,
Hath in the middle tied a Gordian knot.
Now love invites me to survey her thighs,
Swelling in likeness like two crystal skies,
Which to the knees by Nature fastened on,
Derive their ever well ‘greed motion.
Her legs with two clear calves, like silver tri’d,
Kindly swell up with little pretty pride,
Leaving a distance for the comely4 small
To beautify the leg and foot withal.
Then lowly, yet most lovely stand the feet,
Round, short and clear, like pounded spices sweet,
And whatsoever thing they tread upon
They make it scent like bruised cinnamon.
The lovely shoulders now allure the eye
To see two tablets of pure ivory
From which two arms like branches seem to spread
With tender rind5 and silver coloured,
With little hands and fingers long and small
To grace a lute, a viol, virginal.
In length each finger doth his next excel,
Each richly headed with a pearly shell.
Thus every part in contrariety
Meet in the whole and make a harmony,
As divers strings do singly disagree,
But form’d by number make sweet melody.
The Description of a Woman. Printed in Witts Recreations, 1645, and contained also in Ashmole MS. 38, where it is signed: “Finis. Robert Herrick.” Our version is taken from Witts Recreations, with the exception of the readings show and grow (for shown and grown, in ll. 15 and 16). The Ashmole MS. contains in all thirty additional lines, which may or may not be by Herrick, but which, as not improving the poem, have been omitted in our text in accordance with the precedent set by the editor of Witts Recreations.
1 MS. blesses.
2 MS. lye.
3 MS. blessed.
4 MS. beauteous.
5 W.R. vein’d.
I subjoin here the four passages found in manuscript versions of this poem, alluded to in the previous note. As said before, they do not improve the poem. After l. 45, “Bearing aloft this rich round world of wonder,” we have these four lines:
In which the veins implanted seem to lie
Like loving vines hid under ivory,
So full of claret, that whoso pricks this vine
May see it spout forth streams like muscadine.
Twelve lines later, after “Riphean snow,” comes a longer passage:
Or else that she in that white waxen hill
Hath seal’d the primrose of her utmost skill.
But now my muse hath spied a dark descent
From this so precious, pearly, permanent,
A milky highway that direction yields
Unto the port-mouth of the Elysian fields:
A place desired of all, but got by these
Whom love admits to the Hesperides;
Here’s golden fruit, that doth exceed all price,
Growing in this love-guarded paradise;
Above the entrance there is written this:
This is the portal to the bower of bliss,
Through midst whereof a crystal stream there flows
Passing the sweet sweet of a musky rose.
With plump, soft flesh, of metal pure and fine,
Resembling shields, both pure and crystalline.
Hence rise those two ambitious hills that look
Into th’ middle, sweet, sight-stealing crook,
Which for the better beautifying shrouds
Its humble self ‘twixt two aspiring clouds
The third addition is four lines from the end, after “with a pearly shell”:
Richer than that fair, precious, virtuous horn
That arms the forehead of the unicorn.
The last four lines are joined on at the end of all:
Unto the idol of the work divine
I consecrate this loving life of mine,
Bowing my lips unto that stately root
Where beauty springs; and thus I kiss her foot.
Ere I go hence and be no more
Seen to the world, I’ll give the score
I owe unto a female child,
And that is this, a verse enstyled
My daughter’s dowry; having which,
I’ll leave thee then completely rich.
Instead of gold, pearl, rubies, bonds
Long forfeit, pawned diamonds
Or antique pledges, house or land,
I give thee this that shall withstand
The blow of ruin and of chance.
These hurt not thine inheritance,
For ’tis fee simple and no rent
Thou fortune ow’st for tenement.
However after times will praise,
This portion, my prophetic bays,
Cannot deliver up to th’ rust,
Yet I keep peaceful in my dust.
As for thy birth and better seeds
(Those which must grow to virtuous deeds),
Thou didst derive from that old stem
(Love and mercy cherish them),
Which like a vestal virgin ply
With holy fire lest that it die.
Grow up with milder laws to know
At what time to say aye or no;
Let manners teach thee where to be
More comely flowing, where less free.
These bring thy husband, like to those
Old coins and medals we expose
To th’ show, but never part with. Next,
As in a more conspicuous text,
Thy forehead, let therein be sign’d
The maiden candour of thy mind;
And under it two chaste-born spies
To bar out bold adulteries,
For through these optics fly the darts
Of lust which set on fire our hearts.
On either side of these quick ears
There must be plac’d, for seasoned fears
Which sweeten love, yet ne’er come nigh
The plague of wilder jealousy.
Then let each cheek of thine entice
His soul as to a bed of spice
Where he may roll and lose his sense,
As in a bed of frankincense.
A lip enkindled with that coal
With which love chafes and warms the soul,
Bring to him next, and in it show
Love’s cherries from such fires grow
And have their harvest, which must stand
The gathering of the lip, not hand;
Then unto these be it thy care
To clothe thy words in gentle air,
That smooth as oil, sweet, soft and clean
As is the childish bloom of bean,
They may fall down and stroke, as the
Beams of the sun the peaceful sea.
With hands as smooth as mercy’s bring
Him for his better cherishing,
That when thou dost his neck ensnare,
Or with thy wrist, or flattering hair,
He may, a prisoner, there descry
Bondage more loved than liberty.
A nature so well formed, so wrought
To calm and tempest, let be brought
With thee, that should he but incline
To roughness, clasp him like a vine,
Or like as wool meets steel, give way
Unto the passion, not to stay;
Wrath, if resisted, over-boils,
If not, it dies or else recoils.
And lastly, see you bring to him
Somewhat peculiar to each limb;
And I charge thee to be known
By n’other face but by thine own.
Let it in love’s name be kept sleek,
Yet to be found when he shall seek
It, and not instead of saint
Give up his worth unto the paint;
For, trust me, girl, she over-does
Who by a double proxy woos.
But lest I should forget his bed,
Be sure thou bring a maidenhead.
That is a margarite, which lost,
Thou bring’st unto his bed a frost
Or a cold poison, which his blood
Benumbs like the forgetful flood.
Now for some jewels to supply
The want of earrings’ bravery
For public eyes; take only these
Ne’er travelled for beyond the seas;
They’re nobly home-bred, yet have price
Beyond the far-fet merchandise:
Obedience, wise distrust, peace, shy
Distance and sweet urbanity;
Safe modesty, lov’d patience, fear
Of offending, temperance, dear
Constancy, bashfulness and all
The virtues less or cardinal,
Take with my blessing, and go forth
Enjewelled with thy native worth.
And now if there a man be found
That looks for such prepared ground,
Let him, but with indifferent skill,
So good a soil bestock and till;
He may ere long have such a wife
Nourish in’s breast a tree of life.
Mr. Herrick: his Daughter’s Dowry. From Ashmole MS. 38, where it is signed: “Finis. Robt. Hericke.”
I have beheld two lovers in a night
Hatched o’er with moonshine from their stolen delight
(When this to that, and that to this, had given
A kiss to such a jewel of the heaven,
Or while that each from other’s breath did drink
Health to the rose, the violet, or pink),
Call’d on the sudden by the jealous mother,
Some stricter mistress or suspicious other,
Urging divorcement (worse than death to these)
By the soon jingling of some sleepy keys,
Part with a hasty kiss; and in that show
How stay they would, yet forced they are to go.
Even such are we, and in our parting do
No otherwise than as those former two
Natures like ours, we who have spent our time
Both from the morning to the evening chime.
Nay, till the bellman of the night had tolled
Past noon of night, yet wear the hours not old
Nor dulled with iron sleep, but have outworn
The fresh and fairest nourish of the morn
With flame and rapture; drinking to the odd
Number of nine which makes us full with God,
And in that mystic frenzy we have hurled,
As with a tempest, nature through the world,
And in a whirlwind twirl’d her home, aghast
At that which in her ecstasy had past;
Thus crowned with rosebuds, sack, thou mad’st me fly
Like fire-drakes, yet didst me no harm thereby.
O thou almighty nature, who didst give
True heat wherewith humanity doth live
Beyond its stinted circle, giving food,
White fame and resurrection to the good;
Shoring them up ‘bove ruin till the doom,
The general April of the world doth come
That makes all equal. Many thousands should,
Were’t not for thee, have crumbled into mould,
And with their serecloths rotted, not to show
Whether the world such spirits had or no,
Whereas by thee those and a million since,
Nor fate, nor envy, can their fames convince.
Homer, Musæus, Ovid, Maro, more
Of those godful prophets long before
Held their eternal fires, and ours of late
(Thy mercy helping) shall resist strong fate,
Nor stoop to the centre, but survive as long
As fame or rumour hath or trump or tongue;
But unto me be only hoarse, since now
(Heaven and my soul bear record of my vow)
I my desires screw from thee, and direct
Them and my thoughts to that sublim’d respect
And conscience unto priesthood; ’tis not need
(The scarecrow unto mankind) that doth breed
Wiser conclusions in me, since I know
I’ve more to bear my charge than way to go,
Or had I not, I’d stop the spreading itch
Of craving more, so in conceit be rich;
But ’tis the God of Nature who intends
And shapes my function for more glorious ends.
Kiss, so depart, yet stay a while to see
The lines of sorrow that lie drawn in me
In speech, in picture; no otherwise than when,
Judgment and death denounced ‘gainst guilty men,
Each takes a weeping farewell, racked in mind
With joys before and pleasures left behind;
Shaking the head, whilst each to each doth mourn,
With thought they go whence they must ne’er return.
So with like looks, as once the ministrel
Cast, leading his Eurydice through hell,
I strike thy love, and greedily pursue
Thee with mine eyes or in or out of view.
So looked the Grecian orator when sent
From’s native country into banishment,
Throwing his eyeballs backward to survey
The smoke of his beloved Attica;
So Tully looked when from the breasts of Rome
The sad soul went, not with his love, but doom,
Shooting his eyedarts ‘gainst it to surprise
It, or to draw the city to his eyes.
Such is my parting with thee, and to prove
There was not varnish only in my love,
But substance, lo! receive this pearly tear
Frozen with grief and place it in thine ear.
Then part in name of peace, and softly on
With numerous feet to hoofy Helicon;
And when thou art upon that forked hill
Amongst the thrice three sacred virgins, fill
A full-brimm’d bowl of fury and of rage,
And quaff it to the prophets of our age;
When drunk with rapture curse the blind and lame,
Base ballad-mongers who usurp thy name
And foul thy altar; charm some into frogs,
Some to be rats, and others to be hogs;
Into the loathsom’st shapes thou canst devise
To make fools hate them, only by disguise;
Thus with a kiss of warmth and love I part
Not so, but that some relic in my heart
Shall stand for ever, though I do address
Chiefly myself to what I must profess.
Know yet, rare soul, when my diviner muse
Shall want a handmaid (as she oft will use),
Be ready, thou for me, to wait upon her,
Though as a servant, yet a maid of honour.
The crown of duty is our duty: well
Doing’s the fruit of doing well. Farewell.
Mr. Robert Herrick: his Farewell unto Poetry. Printed by Dr. Grosart and Mr. Hazlitt from Ashmole MS. 38. I add a few readings from Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 22, 603, where it is entitled: Herrick’s Farewell to Poetry. The importance of the poem for Herrick’s biography is alluded to in the brief “Life” prefixed to vol. i.
For some sleepy keys the Museum MS. reads, the sleeping keys; for yet forc’t they are to go it has and yet are forc’t to go; drinking to the odd Number of Nine for Number of Wine, as to which see below; turned her home for twirled her home; dear soul for rare soul. All these are possible, but beloved Africa, and the omission of the two half lines, “’tis not need The scarecrow unto mankind,” are pure blunders.
Drinking to the odd Number of Nine. I introduce this into the text from the Museum manuscript as agreeing with the
“Well, I can quaff, I see,
To th’ number five
of A Bacchanalian Verse (Hesperides 653), on which see Note. Dr. Grosart explains the Ashmole reading Wine by the Note “οινοσ and vinum both give five, the number of perfection”; but this seems too far-fetched for Herrick.
Kiss, so depart. By a strange freak Ashmole MS. writes Guesse, and the Museum MS. Ghesse; but the emendation Kiss (adopted both by Dr. Grosart and Mr. Hazlitt) cannot be doubted.
Well doing’s the fruit of doing well. Seneca, de Clem. i. 1: Rectè factorum verus fructus [est] fecisse. Also Ep. 81: Recte facti fecisse merces est. The latter, and Cicero, de Finib. II. xxii. 72, are quoted by Montaigne, Ess. II. xvi.
Shoring, copies soaring.
Fly hence, pale care, no more remember
Past sorrows with the fled December,
But let each pleasant cheek appear
Smooth as the childhood of the year,
And sing a carol here.
’Twas brave, ’twas brave, could we command the hand
Of youth’s swift watch to stand
As you have done your day;
Then should we not decay.
But all we wither, and our light
Is spilt in everlasting night,
Whenas your sight
Shows like the heavens above the moon,
Like an eternal noon
That sees no setting sun.
Keep up those flames, and though you shroud
Awhile your forehead in a cloud,
Do it like the sun to write
In the air a greater text of light;
Welcome to all our vows,
And since you pay
To us this day
So long desir’d,
See we have fir’d
Our holy spikenard, and there’s none
But brings his stick of cinnamon,
His eager eye or smoother smile,
And lays it gently on the pile,
Which thus enkindled, we invoke
Your name amidst the sacred smoke.
Chorus. Come then, great Lord.
And see our altar burn
With love of your return,
And not a man here but consumes
His soul to glad you in perfumes.
A Carol presented to Dr. Williams. From Ashmole MS. 36, 298. For Dr. Williams, see Note to Hesperides 146. This poem was apparently written in 1640, after the removal of the bishop’s suspension.
You may vow I’ll not forget
To pay the debt
Which to thy memory stands as due
As faith can seal it you;
Take then tribute of my tears,
So long as I have fears
To prompt me I shall ever
Languish and look, but thy return see never.
Oh then to lessen my despair
Print thy lips into the air,
So by this
Means I may kiss thy kiss
Whenas some kind
Shall hither waft it, and in lieu
My lips shall send a 1000 back to you.
His Mistress to him at his Farewell. From Add. MS. 11, 811, at the British Museum, where it is signed “Ro. Herrick”.
Go hence away, and in thy parting know
’Tis not my voice but Heaven’s that bids thee go;
Spring hence thy faith, nor think it ill desert
I find in thee that makes me thus to part.
But voice of fame, and voice of Heaven have thundered
We both were lost, if both of us not sundered.
Fold now thine arms, and in thy last look rear
One sigh of love, and cool it with a tear.
Since part we must, let’s kiss; that done, retire
With as cold frost as erst we met with fire;
With such white vows as fate can ne’er dissever,
But truth knit fast; and so, farewell for ever.
Upon Parting. From Harleian MS. 6917, at the British Museum.
Apollo sings, his harp resounds: give room,
For now behold the golden pomp is come,
Thy pomp of plays which thousands come to see
With admiration both of them and thee.
O volume! worthy, leaf by leaf and cover,
To be with juice of cedar wash’d all over;
Here words with lines and lines with scenes consent
To raise an act to full astonishment;
Here melting numbers, words of power to move
Young men to swoon and maids to die for love.
Love lies a-bleeding here, Evadne, there
Swells with brave rage, yet comely everywhere;
Here’s A mad lover, there that high design
Of King and no King, and the rare plot thine.
So that whene’er we circumvolve our eyes,
Such rich, such fresh, such sweet varieties
Ravish our spirits, that entranc’d we see
None writes love’s passion in the world like thee.
Upon Master Fletcher’s Incomparable Plays. Printed in Beaumont and Fletcher’s Works, 1647, and Beaumont’s Poems, 1653.
The Golden Pomp is come. Ovid, “Aurea Pompa venit” (as in Hesperides 201).
To be with juice of cedar washed all over. Horace’s “linenda cedro,” as in Hesperides.
Evadne. See Note to Hesperides 575.
CHARON AND EUCOSMIA.
Euc. Charon, O Charon, draw thy boat to th’ shore,
And to thy many take in one soul more.
Cha. Who calls? who calls? Euc. One overwhelm’d with ruth;
Have pity either on my tears or youth,
And take me in who am in deep distress;
But first cast off thy wonted churlishness.
Cha. I will be gentle as that air which yields
A breath of balm along the Elysian fields.
Speak, what art thou? Euc. One once that had a lover,
Than which thyself ne’er wafted sweeter over.
He was —— Cha. Say what? Euc. Ah me, my woes are deep.
Cha. Prithee relate, while I give ear and weep.
Euc. He was a Hastings; and that one name has
In it all good that is, and ever was.
He was my life, my love, my joy, but died
Some hours before I should have been his bride.
Chorus. Thus, thus the gods celestial still decree,
For human joy contingent misery.
Euc. The hallowed tapers all prepared were,
And Hymen call’d to bless the rites. Cha. Stop there.
Euc. Great are my woes. Cha. And great must that grief be
That makes grim Charon thus to pity thee.
But now come in. Euc. More let me yet relate.
Cha. I cannot stay; more souls for waftage wait
And I must hence. Euc. Yet let me thus much know,
Departing hence, where good and bad souls go?
Cha. Those souls which ne’er were drench’d in pleasure’s stream,
The fields of Pluto are reserv’d for them;
Where, dress’d with garlands, there they walk the ground
Whose blessed youth with endless flowers is crown’d.
But such as have been drown’d in this wild sea,
For those is kept the Gulf of Hecate,
Where with their own contagion they are fed,
And there do punish and are punished.
This known, the rest of thy sad story tell
When on the flood that nine times circles hell.
Chorus. We sail along to visit mortals never;
But there to live where love shall last for ever.
The New Charon. First printed in “Lachrymae Musarum. The tears of the Muses: exprest in Elegies written by divers persons of Nobility and Worth, upon the death of the most hopefull Henry, Lord Hastings. . . . Collected and set forth by R[ichard] B[rome]. London, 1649.” This is the only poem which we know of Herrick’s, written after 1648, and even in this Herrick uses materials already employed in “Charon and the Nightingale” in Hesperides.
No trust to metals nor to marbles, when
These have their fate and wear away as men;
Times, titles, trophies may be lost and spent,
But virtue rears the eternal monument.
What more than these can tombs or tombstones pay?
But here’s the sunset of a tedious day:
These two asleep are: I’ll but be undress’d
And so to bed: pray wish us all good rest.
Epitaph on the Tomb of Sir Edward Giles. First printed by Dr. Grosart from the monument in Dean Prior Church. Sir Edward Giles was the occupant of Dean Court and the magnate of the parish.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51