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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.

The Argument of His Book

Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674
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.

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
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.
		
What, were ye born to be
   An hour or half's delight,
   And so to bid good-night?
'Twas pity Nature brought ye forth
   Merely to show
poem
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
poem
Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn   
    Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.   
    See how Aurora throws her fair   
    Fresh-quilted colours through the air:   
    Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see          
    The dew bespangling herb and tree!   
Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the