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more especially as those, who, after having read this article, may be curious to be informed of such circumstances of it as have been collected, may satisfy their curiosity by a reference to Nichols's History of Leicestershire, or to Dr. Drake's Literary Hours. It will be sufficient for our purpose to mention, hat he was born in the year 1591, and lived to an advanced age, although the exact time of his death has not been correctly ascertained. The second part of Herrick's works bears date a year anterior to the first, but they are both generally found in one volume, and were probably published at the same time, and shortly after he was ejected from his vicarage, and had re-assumed his lay-title.
Little more than the name of Robert Herrick was known, and nothing like a just appreciation of his merits existed, at the time when Dr. Drake published his Literary Hours. Mr. Ellis had, it is true, in his Specimens of early English Poetry, previously given four pieces from his works, but they are a very inadequate representation of the varied excellences of the poet. The author of the Literary Hours made more copious extracts from them, and entered into a more detailed criticism on their merits: but we conceive he has not done such ample justice to Herrick as he really deserves. Some very beautiful specimens he has selected, but a great many he has left to waste their sweets in the desert of the bibliographer's library. It is with the view of supplying this omission, as well as of embellishing our pages with the rare and singular things which the volume affords, that we have been induced to make an anthology from his works; for which we are sure such of our readers as are yet unacquainted with them will render us no common thanks.
While the phlegmatic grace and pedantry of Waller, and the grace without pedantry of Carew, have been the subjects of general observation, the varied modulation and exquisite harmony of Herrick's muse have been totally neglected. He, who excels both, not only in the structure of his verse, but in the more essential requisites of poetry, is less known than either. And there are blemishes in this collection of poems, which may, in some measure, account for the negligence with which it has been treated, and which, in our stricter system of manners, present an invincible obstacle to its being received into general favour. The blemishes, to which we allude, are the indelicacy and occasional coarseness of expression which we sometimes find in his works. This deformity, however, also characterizes the productions of Carew, who, in proportion to their number and extent, oversteps the bounds of decency and decorum almost as frequently as Herrick. But, forgetting the impurities of our author, and estimating the chaster effusions of his felicitous genius, we do not hesitate to pronounce him the very best of English Lyric Poets. He is the most joyous and gladsome of bards ; singing, like the grasshopper, as if he would never grow
old. He is as fresh as the spring, as blithe as summer, and as ripe as autumn. We know of no English poet who is so abandonné, as the French term it, who so wholly gives himself up to his present feelings, who is so much heart and soul in what he writes, and this not on one subject only but on all subjects alike. The spirit of song dances in his veins, and flutters around his lips-now bursting into the joyful and hearty voice of the Epicurean ; sometimes breathing forth strains soft as the sigh of " buried love ;” and sometimes uttering feelings of the most delicate pensiveness. His poems resemble a luxuriant meadow, full of king-cups and wild flowers, or a July firmament sparkling with a myriad of stars. His fancy fed upon all the fair and sweet things of nature ; it is redolent of roses and jessamine; it is as light and airy as the thistle-down, or the bubbles which laughing boys blow into the air, where they float in a waving line of beauty. Like the sun, it communicates a delightsome gladness to every thing it shines upon, and is as bright and radiant as his beams; and yet many of his pieces conclude with the softest touches of sensibility and feeling. Indeed it is that delicate pathos, which is, at the same time, natural and almost playful, which most charms us in the writings of Herrick, And as for his versification, it presents one of the most varied specimens of rhythmical harmony in the language, flowing with an almost wonderful grace and flexibility
We shall first give a few specimens of our author's amatory poetry, which is exceedingly buoyant and graceful.
To his Mistress objecting to his neither toying nor talking.
If so be you ask me, where
The Kiss, a Dialogue.
What is the thing we call a kiss ?2. I shall resolve ye what it is :
It is a creature born, and bred
Chor.–And makes more soft the bridal bed :
2. It is an active flame, that flies
First to the babies of the eyes,
Chor.-And stills the bride too when she cries :
2. Then to the chin, the cheek, the ear,
It frisks, and fies; now here, now there;
Chor.–And here, and there, and every-where.1. Has it a speaking virtue?–2. Yes.1. How speaks it, say?-2. Do you but this, Part your join'd lips, then speaks your kiss;
Chor.–And this love's sweetest language is.1. Has it a body?-2. Aye, and wings,
With thousand rare encolourings;
Chor.-Love honey yields, but never stings.”
The Rock of Rubies and the Quarry of Pearls.
And nothing I did say,
The lips of Julia.
Then spoke I to my girl
The quarrelets of pearl.”
Upon Mrs. Elizabeth Wheeler, under the name of Amaryllis.
“ Sweet Amaryllis by a spring's
At which poor robin flew away;
The captived Bee, or the little Filcher.
“ As Julia once a slumb’ring lay,
The Night-piece.- To Julia.
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
But on, on thy way,
Not making a stay,
Let not the dark thee cumber;
The stars of the night
Will lend thee their light,
Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
And, when I shall meet
Thy silv'ry feet,
Love dislikes nothing.
Be my girl or fair, or brown;
Be she rough, or smooth of skin ;
Be she bald, or does she wear
Be she whole, or be she rent;
She's to me most excellent.