Friday, August 10, 2007

Whenas in silks my Julia goes -- a Poetry Friday post

Today I thought I'd take a look at a 17th century English poet named Robert Herrick. If you've ever studied poetry in school, you've probably heard of him, even though you may not remember.

Whenas in silks my Julia goes
by Robert Herrick

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free;
O how that glittering taketh me!

If you think the phrase "liquefaction of her clothes" has sent me into raptures, you are correct. *Happy sigh*

Herrick was born in London (in Cheapside, a word which I hear hissed by Anna Chancellor every time I watch Pride & Prejudice starring Colin Firth), the son of a goldsmith. He was apprenticed to his uncle (also a goldsmith), and matriculated from St. John's College in Cambridge. He later became a clergyman. Herrick was one of the Sons of Ben, a group of Cavalier poets who idolized the Elizabethan poet and dramatist, Ben Jonson. (In that particular time, "Cavalier" indicated a Loyalist, or someone who supported the King; Herrick lived through the English Civil War, during which he lost his living as a clergyman because he would not renounce his loyalty to the monarchy, but had it restored again during the Restoration.)

If you've not seen "Whenas in silks my Julia goes" before, you are probably wondering why I'm so sure you know something by Herrick. It's because he wrote To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, one of the foremost examples of carpe diem ("seize the day") poetry. Herrick was also known for his work in iambic monometer (poems composed of lines containing single iambic feet).

Here's an example:

Upon His Departure Hence
by Robert Herrick

Thus I
Passe by,
And die:
As One,
And gon.
I'm made
A shade,
And laid
I'th grave,
There have
My Cave.
Where tell
I dwell,

Carpe diem, folks. Carpe diem.

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