The English lyric poet Robert Herrick, b. 1591, d. October 1674, wrote
over 1,400 poems, including the well-known song "To the Virgins, to
Make Much of Time," which begins, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may."
Perhaps the most popular poem of the second half of the 17th century,
it was published in 10 miscellanies and 11 songbooks and was set to
music by William Lawes (1602-45). Characteristic of Herrick's verse, it
is a mellifluous adaptation of a classical theme, carpe diem, or "seize
the day," decorously seductive in its graceful pastoralisms. It shows
affinities with songs of Ben Jonson, but its teasing didacticism lacks
Jonson's moral urgency.
Little is known of Herrick's childhood. At the age of 16 he was
apprenticed tohis uncle, a goldsmith, before entering Cambridge
University. In 1623 he took orders in the Anglican church and in 1629
was made vicar of Dean Prior, Devonshire, where he remained until
ejected by the Puritans in 1647. He was restored to his vicarage in
Most of Herrick's poems were printed in Hesperides (1648), a volume
named for the mythological garden of golden apples. This book included
a smaller section of Noble Numbers, or religious verse. The kinds of
poetry in which Herrick frequently worked--love songs, compliments,
elegies, epigrams, epistles praising country life--show the influence
of Jonson and of such classical models as Martial, Horace, and
Catullus. His greatest poem, "Corinna's Going A Maying," is a radiant
invitation to love while it is still "springtime, fresh and green."
Interest revived in Herrick's poetry during the 19th century, but it
has declined in this century, as scholars have increasingly preferred
the work of John Donne. ANNE FERRY
Bibliography: Brooks, Cleanth, The Well-Wrought Urn (1947);Chute,
Marchette, Two Gentle Men (1959); Rollin, Roger B., Robert Herrick
(1966); Scott, George W., Robert Herrick (1974).
Robert Herricks uncle was Sir William Herrick, father of our ancestor
Henry Herrick (The immigrant in 1629 0n the Lion to Salem, Ma)