Herrick, Robert


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 to his 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)