Robert Herrick (poet)

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If well thou hast begun, go on fore-right
It is the end that crowns us, not the fight.

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.


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 (1648)[edit]

  • 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").

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