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The Night Piece, To Julia -- Robert Herrick

(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.
-- Robert Herrick
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


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:
  [broken link]

- martin

10 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Amit Chakrabarti said...

> And if someone can tell me why he wants to meet her silv'ry feet (of all
> things) do write in :)

One word: fetish :)
This poem felt very French to me. I wonder why...

Rose said...

You commented:
Robert Herrick's seeming fascination with Julia's silv'ry feet was a

Herrick, a cleric, knew well both the beauty and the necessity of feet.

Why is fascination with eyes, or lips, or breasts not a fetish?
.... but admiration of lovely feet is.

A man who can love a woman's feet loves the entire entity; body,
soul and spirit.

As for being French - please - Robert Herrick was a Romantic - not a

naeem shaikh said...


please email the said picture to me right now.


Anonymous said...

sorry if I offend, but when I read this aloud the rhythm reminded me of limericks

Unknown said...

I believe that the reference to her feet is a broader reference, such as, I lay my heart at your feet, I offer my sword at your feet, I pour my affections at your feet (to do with as you will). It's a way of demonstrating allegiance, devotion.Rather than pouring his soul at her feet, in this he offers to pour his soul INTO her feet, which lends a sexual tone to the general meaning.

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