Robert Herrick (1591―1674) is the author of Hesperides (1648), a collection of more than 1200 short poems ranging in theme from English country life, to love, to Christian faith. He never married, and it is believed that many of the women mentioned in his poems were fictitious. He was part of the group known as the “Sons of Ben” who greatly admired the work of Ben Jonson. Herrick almost seems to be two poets – one secular and one sacred. The tension between these two sides can be seen in “His Prayer For Absolution” (below).
In 1621 Herrick became vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire. He maintained this post for a total of 31 years, although he was temporarily removed from this position because of his royalist leanings during the Civil War; he regained his place after Charles II was restored to the throne.
To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
----Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
----Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
----The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
----And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
----When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
----Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
----And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
----You may forever tarry.
His Prayer For Absolution
For those my unbaptized rhymes,
Writ in my wild unhallowed times,
For every sentence, clause, and word,
That's not inlaid with thee, my Lord,
Forgive me, God, and blot each line
Out of my book, that is not Thine.
But if, 'mongst all, thou find'st here one
Worthy thy benediction,
That one of all the rest shall be
The glory of my work, and me.
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca