Robert Herrick (poet)

English poet and cleric (1591–1674)
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Robert Herrick (baptized August 24 1591 - October 1674) was a 17th century English poet. Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith, who committed suicide when Robert was a year old.

If well thou hast begun, go on fore-right
It is the end that crowns us, not the fight.
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Bid me to live, and I will live
Thy Protestant to be,
Or bid me love, and I will give
A loving heart to thee.
  • I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers:
    Of April, May, of June, and July flowers.
    I sing of Maypoles, Hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
    Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes.
    I write of youth, of love, and have access
    By these to sing of cleanly wantonness;
    I sing of dews, of rains, and piece by piece
    Of balm, of oil, of spice and ambergris;
    I sing of times trans-shifting, and I write
    How roses first came red and lilies white;
    I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing
    The Court of Mab, and of the Fairy King;
    I write of hell; I sing (and ever shall)
    Of heaven, and hope to have it after all.
    • 1. "The Argument of His Book".
  • To read my booke the Virgin Shie
    May blush, (while Brutus standeth by:)
    But when He’s gone, read through what’s writ,
    And never staine a cheeke for it.
    • 4. "Another [to his Booke]".
  • Thus woe succeeds a woe, as wave a wave.
    • 48. "Sorrows Succeed". Compare: "One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, So fast they follow", William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act iv. Sc. 7.
  • Cherry ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry,
    Full and fair ones; come and buy!
    If so be you ask me where
    They do grow, I answer, there,
    Where my Julia's lips do smile;
    There's the land, or cherry-isle,
    Whose plantations fully show
    All the year where cherries grow.
    • 53. "Cherry Ripe".
  • Give me a kiss, and to that kiss a score;
    Then to that twenty, add a hundred more:
    A thousand to that hundred: so kiss on,
    To make that thousand up a million.
    Treble that million, and when that is done,
    Let's kiss afresh, as when we first begun.
    • 74. "To Anthea: Ah, My Anthea!"
  • Some asked me where the rubies grew,
    And nothing I did say;
    But with my finger pointed to
    The lips of Julia.
    • 75. "The Rock of Rubies, and the Quarrie of Pearls".
  • Some asked how pearls did grow, and where?
    Then spoke I to my girl
    To part her lips, and showed them there
    The quarelets of pearl.
    • 75. "The Rock of Rubies, and the Quarrie of Pearls".
  • A sweet disorder in the dress
    Kindles in clothes a wantonness:

    A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly:
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

    • 83. "Delight in Disorder".
  • You say to me-wards your affection's strong;
    Pray love me little, so you love me long.
    • 143. "Love Me Little, Love Me Long". Compare: "Love me little, love me long", Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, Act iv; "Me love you long time", 2 Live Crew, "Me So Horny" (sampled from the Stanley Kubrick film, Full Metal Jacket).
  • Sweet, be not proud of those two eyes
    Which starlike sparkle in their skies;
    Nor be you proud that you can see
    All hearts your captives, yours yet free
  • Get up, sweet Slug-a-bed, and see
    The dew bespangling herb and tree.
    • 178. "Corinna's Going A-Maying".
  • 'Tis sin,
    Nay, profanation to keep in.
    • 178. "Corinna's Going A-Maying".
  • So when or you or I are made
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
    All love, all liking, all delight
    Lies drowned with us in endless night.
    • 178. "Corinna's Going A-Maying".
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
  • Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying,
    And this same flower that smiles today
    Tomorrow will be dying.

    The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
    The higher he's a-getting
    The sooner will his race be run,
    And nearer he's to setting.
    • 208. "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time". Compare: "Gather the rose of love whilest yet is time", Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, book ii. canto xii. stanza 75. ; "Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds, before they be withered", Wisdom of Solomon, ii. 8.
  • Fall on me like a silent dew,
    Or like those maiden showers
    Which, by the peep of day, do strew
    A baptism o’er the flowers.
    • 227. "To Music, to becalm his Fever".
  • Art quickens nature; care will make a face; Neglected beauty perisheth apace.
    • 234. "Neglect".
  • Before man's fall the rose was born,
    St. Ambrose says, without the thorn;
    But for man's fault then was the thorn
    Without the fragrant rose-bud born; But ne'er the rose without the thorn.
    • 251. "The Rose" (published c. 1648). Compare: "Flower of all hue, and without thorn the rose", John Milton, Paradise Lost, book iv. line 256.; "Every rose has it's thorn", Poison, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn".
  • God doth not promise here to man that He
    Will free him quickly from his misery;
    But in His own time, and when He thinks fit,
    Then He will give a happy end to it.
    • 252. "God's Time Must End Our Trouble".
  • Bid me to live, and I will live
    Thy Protestant to be,
    Or bid me love, and I will give
    A loving heart to thee.
  • Bid me despair, and I'll despair,
    Under that cypress tree;
    Or bid me die, and I will dare
    E'en Death, to die for thee.
  • If well thou hast begun, go on fore-right
    It is the end that crowns us, not the fight.
    • 309. "The End".
  • Fair daffadills, we weep to see
    You haste away so soon:
    As yet the early rising sun
    Has not attained his noon.
    • 316. "To Daffadills".
  • Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
    Why do ye fall so fast?
    Your date is not so past
    But you may stay yet here awhile
    To blush and gently smile,
    And go at last.
  • Her pretty feet, like snails, did creep
    A little out, and then,
    As if they playèd at bo-peep,
    Did soon draw in again.
    • 525. "To Mistress Susanna Southwell" ("Upon Her Feet"). Compare: "Her feet beneath her petticoat / Like little mice stole in and out", Sir John Suckling, "Ballad upon a Wedding".
  • 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.
    • 619. "The Night Piece to Julia".
  • What is a kiss? Why this, as some approve:
    The sure, sweet cement, glue, and lime of love.
    • 622. "A Kiss".
  • Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
    Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
    That liquefaction of her clothes.
    Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
    That brave vibration each way free;
    Oh how that glittering taketh me!
    • 779. "Upon Julia's Clothes".
  • I saw a flie within a beade
    Of amber cleanly buried.
    • 817. "The Amber Bead" (published c. 1648). Compare: "Whence we see spiders, flies, or ants entombed and preserved forever in amber, a more than royal tomb", Francis Bacon, Historia Vitæ et Mortis; Sylva Sylvarum, Cent. i. Exper. 100.
  • Night makes no difference 'twixt the Priest and Clerk;
    Joan as my Lady is as good i' the dark.
    • 864. "No Difference i' th' Dark".
  • Thus times do shift, each thing his turn does hold;
    New things succeed, as former things grow old.
    • 892. "Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve".
  • We such clusters had
    As made us nobly wild, not mad;
    And yet each verse of thine
    Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine.
    • 911. "Ode for Ben Jonson" ("An Ode for Him").
  • Attempt the end, and never stand to doubt;
    Nothing's so hard but search will find it out.
    • 1008. "Seek and Find". Compare: "Nil tam difficilest quin quærendo investigari possiet" (transalted as "Nothing is so difficult but that it may be found out by seeking"), Terence, Heautontimoroumenos, iv. 2, 8.

Noble Numbers

  • Here a little child I stand
    Heaving up my either hand.
    Cold as paddocks though they be,
    Here I lift them up to Thee,
    For a benison to fall
    On our meat, and on us all.
    • 95, "A Child's Grace" ("Another Grace for a Child").


  • Fresh with all airs of woodland brooks
      And scents of showers,
    Take to your haunt of holy books
      This saint of flowers.
    When meadows burn with budding May,
      And heaven is blue,
    Before his shrine our prayers we say,—
      Saint Robin true.
    Love crowned with thorns is on his staff,—
      Thorns of sweet briar;
    His benediction is a laugh,
      Birds are his choir.
    His sacred robe of white and red
      Unction distils;
    He hath a nimbus round his head
      Of daffodils.
    • Edmund Gosse, "With a Copy of Herrick" in Firdausi in Exile, and Other Poems (1885), pp. 161–2
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