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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Robert Herrick: In the West (His Lachrimae or Mirth, turn'd to mourning)


Golden Gate Bridge refracted in rain drops acting as lenses: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2007


.....Call me no more, 
.....As heretofore, 
The musick of a Feast; 
.....Since now (alas) 
.....The mirth, that was 
In me, is dead or ceast. 


.....Before I went 
.....To banishment 
Into the loathed West; 
.....I co'd rehearse 
.....A Lyrick verse, 
And speak it with the best. 


.....But time (Ai me) 
.....Has laid, I see, 
My Organ fast asleep; 
.....And turn'd my voice 
.....Into the noise 
Of those that sit and weep. 

File:2005-12-25 Magnifying drop.jpg

Magnifying and light collecting effect of a drop of oil on a glass plate held a short distance above a text: photo by Roger McLassus, 2005

Robert Herrick: His Lachrimae or Mirth, turn'd to mourning, from Hesperides, 1648


TC said...

The poet Herrick came from a line of ingenious artisans. His father was a goldsmith and possibly also fiddled a bit with the dark arts of alchemy. A later descendant of the clan designed the Golden Gate Bridge, a little known fact that is celebrated with the upper photo here, today, on the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Bridge, which is allegedly still there, though with the clouds and raindrops obscuring things, that would be difficult to corroborate from here.

Also by the brilliant Robin Herrick, and definitely still here:

Robert Herrick: Silks

Robert Herrick: The comming of good luck

Robert Herrick: Life is the Bodies Light

Robert Herrick: Her Legs

Hazen said...

Tomas, it’s the rhythm of Herrick’s poem that soothes the troubled breast this morning, however lachrymose the meaning of his words. The two work off each other, setting up an odd but satisfying kind of tension for the eye and ear. Maybe this is Herrick’s clear and cold-eyed assessment of himself in time and space, where we all are. He's even smiling a bit at it all.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

How can anyone ever forget “that liquefaction of her clothes”? Or all those other perfect poems by this pure, flowing genius?

Conrad DiDiodato said...

The upper photo strikes me as perhaps the suicide's own last glimpse of her, refracted in a drop

Nin Andrews said...

And I am still stuck on kisses and think of Herrick--he has the loathsome kiss poem. Beautiful images.
Thanks for the Kafka stories. I always liked that little tiny one about an odradek, too. I think that's what it was called--and the bucket rider and the hunger artist.

I am always torn in writing btw writing the world and writing the underworld. Writing one leads to the other, of course, but it's a question I ask, going from one to the other.

TC said...

Herrick learnt poetry in the circle of Ben Jonson, in which much was flowing, but little of it tears.

Here's his lovely little "prayer" to his lyric mentor, Ben, invoking the "old religion" (of the poets) and charmingly offering Ben the bribe of a private canonization. The wit and delicacy not only rival but outdo the master.

When I a Verse shall make,
Know I have praid thee,
For old Religions sake,
Saint Ben to aid me.

Make the way smooth for me,
When I, thy Herrick,
Honouring thee, on my knee
Offer my Lyrick.

Candles Ile give to thee,
And a new Altar;
And thou Saint Ben, shalt be
Writ in my Psalter.

After his time in London Herrick went off to be a country parson in rocky and uncouth Devon, a place for which he seems to have harboured a curious mix of emotions. The effects of the Civil War were certainly felt.

He published all his poems in one go, in Hesperides (1648), with no particular order in the section containing the secular poems; so that there are mysteries as to date of composition.

But this poem would appear to date from the 1630s/1640s.

And I would agree with Hazen that however lachrymose the sentiments, Herrick always allows a bit of a smile to play around the corners of his expression. The playfulness, like the musicality, remains so close to the heart of the poetry of "this pure, flowing genius" as to be inseparable from it.

For over a half century now I have found it helpful to return to that exemplary ability of his to smile at himself in any weather.

A calmative.

By the by, Nin, as Herrick has so very many kiss poems, I can't for the life of me guess which one you might be referring to as loathsome.

Hmm, let's see.

A Kisse

What is a kisse? Why this, as some approve;
The sure sweet-Sement, Glue, and Lime of Love.

Or perhaps...


Give me the food that satisfies a Guest;
Kisses are but dry banquets to a Feast.

So what'll it be, then, sticky or dry?



Such a sweet Herrick lyric, so timely to find it here today (Memorial Day), cheering us back to a bit of mirth from our "banishment Into the loathed West"


black of night sky above plane of black
ridge, black shape of black pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

relate to other color, same
material as the image

shadow, points to something
else, that this is so

sunlit white clouds in blue above ridge,
line of 4 pelicans gliding toward point

TC said...

And here we are, then, forever, making the best of it. Perhaps some better than others.