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About this poet

Born on August 24, 1591, Robert Herrick was the seventh child and fourth son born to a London goldsmith, Nicholas, and his wife, Julian Stone Herrick. When Herrick was fourteen months old, his father died. At age 16, Herrick began a ten-year apprenticeship with his uncle. The  apprenticeship ended after only six years, and Herrick, at age twenty-two, matriculated at Saint John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1617.

Over the next decade, Herrick became a disciple of Ben Jonson, about whom he wrote five poems. In 1623 Herrick took holy orders, and six years later, he became vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire. His post carried a term for a total of thirty-one years, but during the Great Rebellion in 1647, he was removed from his position because of his Royalist sympathies. Following the restoration of Charles II, Herrick was reinstated at Dean Prior where he resided from 1662 until his death in October 1674. He never married, and many of the women mentioned in his poems are thought to have been fictional.

His principal work is Hesperides; or, the Works Both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, Esq. (1648). A group of religious poems printed in 1647 appear within the same book under a separate title page bearing the name His Noble Numbers. The entire collection contains more than 1200 short poems, ranging in form from epistles and eclogues to epigrams and love poems. Herrick was influenced by classical Roman poetry and wrote on pastoral themes, dealing mostly with English country life and village customs.

To Anthea Who May Command Him Any Thing

Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674
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.   
   
A heart as soft, a heart as kind,
  A heart as sound and free   
As in the whole world thou canst find,   
  That heart I'll give to thee.   
   
Bid that heart stay, and it will stay,   
  To honour thy decree;
Or bid it languish quite away.   
  And 't shall do so for thee.   
   
Bid me to weep, and I will weep   
  While I have eyes to see;   
And having none, yet I will keep
  A heart to weep for 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.
   
Thou art my life, my love, my heart,   
  The very eyes of me,   
And hast command of every part,   
  To live and die for thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick

Born in August 1591, Robert Herrick was the author of Hesperides; or, the Works Both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, Esq.

by this poet

poem
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.

That age is best which is the first,
   When
poem

I dare not ask to kiss,
I dare not beg a smile,
Lest having that, or this,
I might grow proud the while.

No, no, the utmost share
Of my desire shall be
Only to kiss the air
That lately kissèd thee.
poem
Shark, when he goes to any publick feast,
Eates to ones thinking, of all there, the least.
What saves the master of the House thereby?
When if the servants search, they may descry
In his wide Codpeece, (dinner being done)
Two Napkins cram'd up, and a silver Spoone.