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A selection from the lyrical poems of Robert Herrick

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1. THE ARGUMENT OF HIS BOOK I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,Of April, May, of June, and July-flowers;I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes,Of bride-grooms, brides, and of their bridal-cakes.I write of Youth, of Love;—and have accessBy these, to sing of cleanly wantonness;I sing of dews, of rains, and, piece by piece,Of balm, of oil, of spice, and ambergris.I sing of times trans-shifting; and I writeHow roses first came red, and lilies white.I write of groves, of twilights, and I singThe court of Mab, and of the Fairy King.I write of Hell; I sing, and ever shallOf Heaven,—and hope to have it after all.

2. TO HIS MUSE Whither, mad maiden, wilt thou roam?Far safer 'twere to stay at home;Where thou mayst sit, and piping, pleaseThe poor and private cottages.Since cotes and hamlets best agreeWith this thy meaner minstrelsy.There with the reed thou mayst expressThe shepherd's fleecy happiness;And with thy Eclogues intermix:Some smooth and harmless Bucolics.There, on a hillock, thou mayst singUnto a handsome shepherdling;Or to a girl, that keeps the neat,With breath more sweet than violet.There, there, perhaps such lines as theseMay take the simple villages;But for the court, the country witIs despicable unto it.Stay then at home, and do not goOr fly abroad to seek for woe;Contempts in courts and cities dwellNo critic haunts the poor man's cell,Where thou mayst hear thine own lines readBy no one tongue there censured.That man's unwise will search for ill,And may prevent it, sitting still.

3. WHEN HE WOULD HAVE HIS VERSES READ In sober mornings, do not thou rehearseThe holy incantation of a verse;But when that men have both well drunk, and fed,Let my enchantments then be sung or read.When laurel spirts i' th' fire, and when the hearthSmiles to itself, and gilds the roof with mirth;When up the Thyrse is raised, and when the soundOf sacred orgies, flies A round, A round;When the rose reigns, and locks with ointments shine,Let rigid Cato read these lines of mine.

4. TO HIS BOOK Make haste away, and let one beA friendly patron unto thee;Lest, rapt from hence, I see thee lieTorn for the use of pastery;Or see thy injured leaves serve wellTo make loose gowns for mackarel;Or see the grocers, in a trice,Make hoods of thee to serve out spice.

5. TO HIS BOOK Take mine advice, and go not nearThose faces, sour as vinegar;For these, and nobler numbers, canNe'er please the supercilious man.

6. TO HIS BOOK Be bold, my Book, nor be abash'd, or fearThe cutting thumb-nail, or the brow severe;But by the Muses swear, all here is good,If but well read, or ill read, understood.

7. TO MISTRESS KATHARINE BRADSHAW, THE LOVELY, THAT CROWNED HIM WITH LAUREL My Muse in meads has spent her many hoursSitting, and sorting several sorts of flowers,To make for others garlands; and to setOn many a head here, many a coronet.But amongst all encircled here, not oneGave her a day of coronation;Till you, sweet mistress, came and interwoveA laurel for her, ever young as Love....