Robert Herrick (poet)

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::
Robert Herrick
Robert Herrick
Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse, (1908)
Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse, (1908)
Gather Ye rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse, (1909)
Gather Ye rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse, (1909)

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. It is likely that he attended Westminster School. In 1607 he became apprenticed to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, who was a goldsmith and jeweller to the king. The apprenticeship ended after only six years when Herrick, at age twenty-two, matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1617. Robert Herrick became a member of the Sons of Ben, a group of Cavalier poets centered around an admiration for the works of Ben Jonson. In or before 1627, he took religious orders, and, having been appointed chaplain to the duke of Buckingham, accompanied him on his disastrous expedition to the Isle of Rhé (1627). He became vicar of the parish of Dean Prior, Devon in 1629, a post that carried a term of thirty-one years. It was in the secluded country life of Devon that he wrote some of his best work.

In the wake of the English Civil War, his position was revoked on account of his refusal to make pledge to the Solemn League and Covenant. He then returned to London. His position was returned to him in the Restoration of Charles II and he returned to Devon in 1662, residing there until his death in 1674. Herrick was a bachelor all his life, and many of the women he names in his poems are thought to be fictional. [1]

His reputation rests on his Hesperides, a collection of lyric poetry, and the much shorter Noble Numbers, spiritual works, published together in 1648. He is well-known for his style and, in his earlier works, frequent references to lovemaking and the female body. His later poetry was more of a spiritiual and philosophical nature. Among his most famous short poetical sayings are the unique monometers, such as "Thus I / Pass by / And die,/ As one / Unknown / And gone."

The opening stanza in one of his more famous poems, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", is as follows:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

This poem is an example of the carpe diem genre; the popularity of Herrick's poems of this kind helped revive the genre.

Dream Theater's song, "A Change of Seasons" (A Change of Seasons, 1995) contains lines from "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time".

The first stanza of the poem "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" appears in the film "Dead Poets Society" starring Robin Williams

At the end of "A Prairie Home Companion (film)" the detective character Guy Noir sings "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" at a piano.

In his poem "Asking for Roses" noted New England poet Robert Frost refers to "Old Herrick" directly when a character in his poem says

A flower unplucked is but left to the falling,
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.

See also

  • Country house poems
  1. ^ Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets, ed. Hugh Maclean (New York: Norton, 1974), p. 106.
  • Project Gutenberg e-text: Chrysomela: A Selection from the Lyrical Poems of Robert Herrick
  • Robert Herrick Works
  • Upon Kings. Poems Upon Several Personages of Honour.
    • "Corinna's Going A-Maying" Creative Commons audio recording.
    • "To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time" Creative Commons audio recording.
    • The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick (with full biography) Site at Newcastle University for the new edition of Herrick's Poetry
    • Waterhouse Paintings of Herrick's Poem "To Virgin, Make Much of Time"
    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
    under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
    or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
    with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
    A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
    Free Documentation License".