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.

Corinna's Going a-Maying

Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674
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 east   
Above an hour since, yet you not drest;   
    Nay! not so much as out of bed?   
    When all the birds have matins said   
    And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,   
    Nay, profanation, to keep in,   
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day   
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.   
  
Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen   
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,   
    And sweet as Flora. Take no care   
    For jewels for your gown or hair:   
    Fear not; the leaves will strew   
    Gems in abundance upon you:   
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,   
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.   
    Come, and receive them while the light   
    Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:   
    And Titan on the eastern hill   
    Retires himself, or else stands still   
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying:   
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.   
  
Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark   
How each field turns a street, each street a park,   
    Made green and trimm'd with trees! see how   
    Devotion gives each house a bough   
    Or branch! each porch, each door, ere this,   
    An ark, a tabernacle is,   
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove,   
As if here were those cooler shades of love.   
    Can such delights be in the street   
    And open fields, and we not see 't?   
    Come, we'll abroad: and let 's obey   
    The proclamation made for May,   
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;   
But, my Corinna, come, let 's go a-Maying.   
  
There 's not a budding boy or girl this day   
But is got up and gone to bring in May.   
    A deal of youth ere this is come   
    Back, and with white-thorn laden home.   
    Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream,   
    Before that we have left to dream:   
And some have wept and woo'd, and plighted troth,   
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
    Many a green-gown has been given,   
    Many a kiss, both odd and even:   
    Many a glance, too, has been sent   
    From out the eye, love's firmament:   
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd: yet we're not a-Maying!   
  
Come, let us go, while we are in our prime,   
And take the harmless folly of the time!   
    We shall grow old apace, and die   
    Before we know our liberty.
    Our life is short, and our days run   
    As fast away as does the sun.   
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain,   
Once lost, can ne'er be found again,   
    So when or you or I are made
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade,   
    All love, all liking, all delight   
    Lies drown'd with us in endless night.   
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,   
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

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

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
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
    The Hag is astride,
    This night for to ride;
The Devill and shee together:
    Through thick, and through thin,
    Now out, and then in,
Though ne'r so foule be the weather.

    A Thorn or a Burr
    She takes for a Spurre:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
    Through Brakes and through Bryars