(Poem #398) The Night Piece, To Julia
Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee, The shooting stars attend thee; And the elves also, Whose little eyes glow Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee. No Will-o'-th'-Wisp mis-light thee, Nor snake or slow-worm bite thee; But on, on thy way, Not making a stay, Since ghost there's none to affright thee. Let not the dark thee cumber; What though the moon does slumber? The stars of the night Will lend thee their light, Like tapers clear without number. Then Julia let me woo thee, Thus, thus to come unto me; And when I shall meet Thy silv'ry feet, My soul I'll pour into thee.
Another of those wonderfully musical poems the rhythm of which sticks in my mind long after the words have faded. In fact, the poem as a whole is notable not so much as a love poem, as for the wonderful way the background is woven - the soft rhythm, the gentle images of a night punctuated by a million living points of light, are evocative without being overdrawn. And if someone can tell me why he wants to meet her silv'ry feet (of all things) do write in :) Biography and Assessment: Herrick, Robert (baptized Aug. 24, 1591, London, Eng.--d. October 1674, Dean Prior, Devonshire), English cleric and poet, the most original of the "sons of Ben [Jonson]," who revived the spirit of the ancient classic lyric. He is best remembered for the line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may." During the time that he was apprenticed to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, a prosperous and influential goldsmith, he cultivated the society of the London wits. In 1613 he went to the University of Cambridge, graduating in 1617. He took his M.A. in 1620 and was ordained in 1623. Herrick returned to London for a time, keeping in touch with court society and enlarging his acquaintance with Ben Jonson and other writers and musicians. In 1627 he went as a chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham on the military expedition to the Île de Ré to relieve La Rochelle from the French Protestants. He was presented with the living of Dean Prior (1629), where he remained for the rest of his life, except when, because of his Royalist sympathies, he was deprived of his post from 1646 until after the Restoration (1660). Herrick became well known as a poet about 1620-30; many manuscript commonplace books from that time contain his poems. The only book that Herrick published was Hesperides (1648), which included His Noble Numbers, a collection of poems on religious subjects with its own title page dated 1647 but not previously printed. Hesperides contained about 1,400 poems, mostly very short, many of them being brief epigrams. His work appeared after that in miscellanies and songbooks; the 17th-century English composer Henry Lawes and others set some of his songs. Herrick wrote elegies, satires, epigrams, love songs to imaginary mistresses, marriage songs, complimentary verse to friends and patrons, and celebrations of rustic and ecclesiastical festivals. The appeal of his poetry lies in its truth to human sentiments and its perfection of form and style. Frequently light, worldy, and hedonistic, and making few pretensions to intellectual profundity, it yet covers a wide range of subjects and emotions, ranging from lyrics inspired by rural life to wistful evocations of life and love's evanescence and fleeting beauty. Herrick's lyrics are notable for their technical mastery and the interplay of thought, rhythm, and imagery that they display. As a poet Herrick was steeped in the classical tradition; he was also influenced by English folklore and lyrics, by Italian madrigals, by the Bible and patristic literature, and by contemporary English writers, notably Ben Jonson and Robert Burton. -- EB Links: We've run one Herrick poem on Minstrels: Delight in Disorder poem #332 For a larger selection of his works, see two of my favourite poetry sites: http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/herrick.html [broken link] http://geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/poem-gh.html - martin