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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Robert Herrick: The comming of good luck


File:Ocean Beach in San Francisco at sunrise edit1.jpg

So Good-luck came, and on my roofe did light,
Like noyse-lesse Snow; or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are, by the Sun-beams, tickel'd by degrees.

File:Ocean Beach, Early Morning.jpg

The comming of good luck: Robert Herrick, from Hesperides, 1648

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, sunrise: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2009
Ocean Beach, early morning: photo by Mike DelGaudio, 2004


Carol Peters said...

these pix! magnificent!

TC said...

Thanks Carol. I was looking for images that had the lightness, colour and tactile "feel" of Herrick's lovely little morning charm. There is a bit of enhancement here I suspect, but there always is in Herrick also, and that is very much a part of the enchantment with him, for me. He loved both nature and art, at the same time and in no particular order. (He was a goldsmith's son, and so the making of small brilliant things was almost second nature for him.)


Dear Tom,

Thanks for all three of these poems plus the pictures with them -- Marvell followed by Herrick followed by Creeley, what a great way to start the day. Marvell so 'abstract' (somehow) -- love "begotten by Despair/ Upon Impossibility -- 'pictured' in that multifaceted mirror; Herrick so sweet and tangible (another poem one didn't remember, or ever know?); "drive, he sd . . . look/ out where yr going" framed by those two "views" of roadside scenes (is that TR's painting?). Meanwhile, another dispatch ("view") from the western front here ---


sunlit white edge of cloud above shadowed
green ridge, sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

exchange of sketches, place
referred to in “view”

not yet present, what comes
into presence, shines

lines of blue sky in clouds above point,
whiteness of gull perched on GROIN sign


ps. good luck to you and all of us!

TC said...

Thank you Steve, and ditto from here, we are going to need all the luck we can get. Magnanimous despair alone could show me so divine a thing.

exchange of sketches, place

As you ask about the images in the Creeley post: the upper image is a gas station in Singapore, the lower image is a Raworth creation, constructed by some no doubt devious genius means about which we can only guess.


Thanks Tom and yes, I hear you ("some no doubt devious genius means about which we can only guess"). And yes, "all the luck we can get"! (I see dark patches up there at the peak of the white ceiling, where the rains have begun to find their way in (last week too, patches of water on floor and similar dark patches in the ceiling --- is this roof that old?

TC said...


Yes it's rained here steadily all night, pauses now for a bit of vague misty sun to break through, with more rain clouds encroaching from your general direction ("over the hill"). Sorry to hear you're joining the elite leak club. Our own roof died about twenty years ago, its ghost is the soggy and tattered remains of about a dozen successive sedimentary layers of tarps now in rags so that what stands between us and the downpours is nothing more than shredded blue plastic cheese cloth. The dry rotted eaves are collapsing. Water, water everywhere. (I do my best to pretend this is not a total disaster, but the pretence isn't working.)

Not such a great night here in several respects, the big beloved master cat of the household, usually an intense bundle of Siamese hyperactive energy, is ill, and multiplied by my own perpetual irascible exhaustion this adds up to an ocean of good cheer (not).

I think I ought to attempt sleep.

aditya said...

What beautiful poems to end a night. Robert Herrick and William Empson.

Thank You for your posts, wonderful, as always.

J said...

Interesting combination...

Similar to Marvell, but not quite as...Toryish...Herricks like in the Top 10 of anglo verse, I'd wager (Ez Pound suggested something like that):

Now is the time for mirth,
Nor cheek or tongue be dumb--
For with the flow'ry earth
The golden pomp is come.


J said...

Good things, that come of course, far less doe please,/Than those, which come by sweet contingencies".


That said, Herrick's verse seems fairly ...pagan, ie horatian--(not the ren.faire/camelot BS). The puritans and Cromwell's men detested all'ng (scuzi) he lost his vicar-ship with the Interregnum and pinche roundheads--tho a bit of a stretch to imagine the Right Reverend Herrick....Charlie II restored him to favor (tho....there were some rather unsavory aspects to the stuarts many in the Lit. biz gloss over)...

One of the Sons of Ben, and a ...royalist--I wager RH knew the aged Bard, probably Hobbes as well (who was a bit of a belle-lettrist before philosophaster), and superb latinist like all, probably greek, italian, a bit of french and spanish as well.

All lost, in this post-Darwinian, post-hiroshima age, really. That was sort of Pound's take--there are scores of 'merican boho's who thought poesy began with like Emerson, if not walt whindman, who never heard of Herrick, much less Horatio...tho' that may be a bit hyperbolic...the lit. of Herrick (if not S-speare, Donne, etc) required the British empire to support it, however. You don't "do" Herrick in a flophouse, or even in the 'burbs: a manor house's needed, sort of like mozart or chopin...

J said...

That said, Herrick's melodies while near-to-perfection have a faintly British ring...a bit dainty for who learned Lit. from Ishmael and Queequeg, and/or ti Jean. (Then one might say the same for schackaspeare)

Bryant's poesy at times seems like a compromise (mostly successful) between Anglo and American verse--a yankee wordsworth, not quite the yawps barbaric of WW, or beats. EA Poe gave a thumbs up...but some probably consider it hackwork (ie, Cafe moderniste). ...WC Bryant, family man and pal of Abe Lincoln, also had a rather serious....beard--quite superior to Tennyson, or even WW's recluse-style

TC said...

I'm still thinking about your proposal of Mozart-ness. Perhaps a bit less depth and more glitter in Herrick, but the qualities of air and light seem not dissimilar.

Herrick an artificer of small and apparently flimsy things which yet have the durability and tinsel or I should say tensile strength of a hard metal, gold comes to mind, beat to an ayery thinness as in the phrase of Donne.

Of course these are not "our" poets but their language is the bank from which we have (with)drawn.

I don't think any Yankee will ever Thanatopse it.

So many of us once did count on and up the practical coin of our little smalltown local branch. Lately though one fears even that refuge starts to appear foreclosed, as we are forced to give over what shreds remained of our centuries of smug cultural self regard.

Cavaliers anyway were always wont to sniff behind the velvet glove at us. Last laugh & c.

J said...

Herrick an artificer of small and apparently flimsy things which yet have the durability and tinsel or I should say tensile strength of a hard metal, gold comes to mind, beat to an ayery thinness as in the phrase of Donne.

Of course these are not "our" poets but their language is the bank from which we have (with)drawn.

Yes, that's it mostly--you fleshed it out a bit more adequately. Jewel-like. At the same time, gazing upon a pile of british gold and jewels, whether poetic or real....many yankee calibans can't help but...reach for a revolver or something-. I admire, even envy Herrick and anglo-metaphysicals, but do not love 'em

J said...

...or maybe it's a ressentiment thing (as Caliban's barks are...): Herrick, like Shakespeare and Donne (or Horace and Cicero, really) represent a complex tradition and ideology that Mericans cannot fathom (as Pound generally suggested....schtoopid americanische, etc). Latin, greek, Aristotle, scholasticism, etc.--

To you that probably seems trivial and/or a misreading, yet one might say it raises the question of agency. Which is to say, Yokeli Americanus never learned a paragraph of latin (and generally not even french or spanish these days), and doesn't know Aristotle or Aquinas from his favorite u-haul place.

Ergo, Herrick (and the rest, from Shakespeare to....really EP or TS Eliot) represent nothing to yahoos; they're all Iagos, and Hannibal Lectors (ie, stock tory/ancien regime villains).
So, a WC Bryant or old bores Thoreau, Emerson et al may have to suffice as Praxis--that or the Dawkins/Darwin/TH Huxleys take over

(scuzi rant)

TC said...


I hear you, I think.

The natural American resistance to a cultural sophistication we never possessed expressing itself in that common sentiment heard every week at the front end of The Sopranos: "Gonna get myself a gun..."

Solve every problem thus. Makes one feel like a man & c.

Greece and Rome were always sitting ducks.

As for the Renaissance (Jonson, Herrick, Donne, Marvell, et al.), of course the second temple was not like the first.

But at least it was a temple.

Pound was left with expressing the loss. Aram nemus vult, the temple seeks its grove. He found his under the trees of the lawn of the looney bin for the criminally insane (St. Elizabeths). I suppose that would be seen as the pinnacle of American neoclassicism.

Pound's an eighteenth century mind manqué.

I did not come from "privilege" but had the (dis?)advantage of being trained by Dominicans and Jesuits, so even if as children we did not know it, Aristotle and Aquinas were always in the wings.

And a nut-tightened scholasticism, should it ever return for even a fleeting visit, would at least have it over "freedom of opinion," the smirched flag of our present shrinking ship.

(What else is the blogosphere for, anyway, but to wave that banner valiantly as the bubbles caress the busted hull?)

J said...

and a nut-tightened scholasticism, should it ever return for even a fleeting visit, would at least have it over "freedom of opinion," the smirched flag of our present shrinking ship.

Yes--and agency again. I have reached the conclusion that the modernist snobs were sort of correct in regard to tradition, at least as it applies to belle-lettres (or other academic endeavors...)--and to democracy one might say (sadly). But that's not to say I agree with the politics (especially TSE's monarchistic nostalgia)...

Consider the few hundred "poets" that Sir Silliman links to--RS may be down with the cause, perhaps (or a cause, anyway), but I'm pretty sure the butcher-block/confessional school ended decades ago, assuming it ever worked...(well a few inspired sections of Kerouac). Do they know Herrick, Donne, so forth? You wouldn't know it reading the daily hobo-ish blasts (that holds for the gal-hobo-poets as well--only so much pussy-poesy one can a page or two a year)

Osiris save us from anymore Sylvia Plaths--alas I include yr onetime crony Ginzo (and his groupies) in that expended class as well. Really, I consider 90% of modern lit a species of narcissism--at least for youngsters.

Assuming student X can write great poesy--then he should put his shoulder to the wheel, update LF Celine, or maybe Brecht, at least plagiarize Dash Hammett and/or effective reportage (sort of my approach...)

Is your Celine novel available? I may check out....I have mort a credit around...the earlier "journey..." at times I have perused --really Destouches was a great comedian, a point the moralists don't get...

TC said...


For the first time in the history of this blog I have clicked on the Amazon side link and learned that, yes, The Exile of Céline can be had for about the price of... oh, a taco.

Barry Taylor said...

Tom - Lurking in the archives again, and pulled up short by the heady cultural politics stirred by Herrick and his 'small brilliant things'. Roundhead by birth and conviction, I suppose I should feel more uneasy about my delight in H, but my dad loved a beautiful clock or watch mechanism, and I think he would have understood and relished H's immaculate devices. Anyway, I'm really just angling for a chance to quote this perfect,and perfectly touching, thing:

Upon Prue, His Maid

In this little urn is laid
Prudence Baldwin, once my maid,
From whose happy spark here let
Spring the purple violet.

Strike a flint and make someone immortal: no minor achievement, that.

Rich and stimulating exchanges here - thanks Tom, and all.

TC said...


It is so touching to think of that small poem in the same breath of thought that holds all those several earlier "fresh and fragrant mistresses" celebrated by RH under the various guises of Corinna, Perilla & c.-- of course by the time Prue Baldwin died, I am certain that Devon and its discontents (and glories) were more "fresh" in the poet's mind than the memories of that once-upon-a-time bubble, his life in London.

Barry Taylor said...

Yes - Prue Baldwin: such a beautifully less than classical or glamorous name, and an exact fit for the 'little urn' he fashioned for her. The spark of life leaping across the space of that enjambement - let/Spring - it's a breathtaking moment, I think, up there for me in the line-ending pantheon with Wordsworth:

But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!

Maybe grieving can sometimes release a special audacity.

Thank you Tom - such good things to share.