The Night Piece: To Julia
The Night Piece: To Julia
Robert Herrick's "The Night Piece: To Julia" is a twenty-line lyric poem in which the speaker addresses a woman he desires, imploring her to visit him at night for a love tryst. In the poem, he assures her of the safety of the walk through country fields she would take to reach him. On the surface it is a witty, unassumingly innocent, even childlike song of seduction graced by dainty metrics and musical rhyme, qualities that inform all Herrick's lyrics. "The Night Piece: To Julia" also suggests a spell woven by the poet to ensure not only the physical safety of his mistress on her walk to his quarters but also her moral or spiritual innocence.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" first appeared in 1648 in Herrick's only collection published during his lifetime, Hesperides; or, The Works Both Humane and Divine of Robert Herrick, a gathering of some 1,400 of Herrick's secular and religious verses. "The Night Piece: To Julia" also appears in Selected Poems: Robert Herrick (2003).
The exact date of his birth is unknown, but Robert Herrick's baptism was recorded on August 24, 1591. A year later his father, Nicholas, a wealthy goldsmith, committed suicide the day after he wrote his will, declaring his soundness of mind but illness of body. After his father's death, Herrick's mother, Julian, kept
her youngest boy and daughter with her but sent Robert and three of his brothers to live with their uncle William Herrick. The young Robert may have attended the Westminster School as a boy or the Merchant Taylors' School. There is no definitive record, but an early poem, written around 1612 to his brother Thomas, shows the young poet as a well-educated youth. At sixteen he probably became a goldsmith and jeweler's apprentice to his cousin, William Pearson. In 1613, after serving for five years, Herrick left the apprenticeship and entered St. John's College, Cambridge, receiving his BA in 1617 and his MA in 1620. In London, where Herrick was supposed to be studying law, he became associated with a group of lyric poets who frequented taverns, honed their craft, and called themselves the Tribe of Ben because of their admiration for the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson (1572-1637). Herrick, in fact, wrote a number of lyrics celebrating and even sanctifying Jonson.
Politically, Herrick supported King Charles I and opposed his Puritan and parliamentary adversaries. Herrick was ordained deacon and priest in the Church of England in April 1623 and became chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham in 1627. Two years later, after returning from an unsuccessful military expedition with Buckingham, Herrick was made vicar of the parish of Dean Prior in Devon. With the beginning, in 1642, of the English Civil War, which set Parliament against king and Presbyterian Christianity against the more hierarchical and established Anglican Church, Herrick lost his position. He then lived in Westminster, in London, dependent upon his friends and family for support. In London, Herrick occupied himself with his poetry. He issued a collection of verse, Hesperides; or, The Works Both Humane and Divine of Robert Herrick (the only collection published in his lifetime), in 1648, dedicating the volume to the Prince of Wales, who became Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy with the fall of the Commonwealth in 1660. Herrick regained the vicarage in Devon in 1662, as appointed by King Charles II. Herrick remained vicar of Dean Prior until his death in October 1674—the exact date is not known—at the age of eighty-three. Herrick never married. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the Dean Prior churchyard; a commemorative tablet and a stained glass window are inscribed to him in the church.
Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee;
The shooting stars attend thee;
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee. 5
No will-o'-the-wisp mis-light thee;
Nor snake or slow-worm bite thee;
But on, on thy way,
Not making a stay,
Since ghost there's none to affright thee. 10
Let not the dark thee cumber;
What though the moon does slumber?
The stars of the night
Will lend thee their light,
Like tapers clear without number. 15
Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
Thus, thus to come unto me;
And when I shall meet
Thy silv'ry feet,
My soul I'll pour into thee. 20
The first of the four stanzas, each with five lines, begins deceptively with a reference to a woman's eyes. Reasonable expectation, considering that the poem is called "The Night Piece: To Julia," can lead the reader to think that these words refer to Julia's eyes, that the poem is beginning with a conventional tribute to the poet's beloved. By the end of the line, however, it is clear that the first words refer not to Julia's eyes but to the eyes of a glowworm. The extension of the title, "To Julia," indicates not that the poem is dedicated to Julia but that it is addressed to her. The poet wants her to have eyes like a glowworm's so that she can come to him at night and see her way clearly. In addition, he wishes for the sky to be full of shooting stars to illuminate her way and for elves to accompany her, too, as their eyes also give off light.
After having invoked in the first stanza the good attendants he wishes to accompany his desired Julia on her way to him, in the second, the poet enumerates some of the forces he wishes to be absent. The will-o'-the-wisp is a false and ghostly light sometimes seen at night, usually over swamps or bogs. It is, in folklore, often associated with the devil, and it has the dangerous power to mislead travelers by its false light. Likewise the snake and slowworm—a sluggish reptile that is a sort of long, fat worm with eyes, sonorously contrasted in the poem with the dazzling glowworm—are associated with the devil, who assumed serpentine form when he effected the fall of man from the blissful seat of Eden by tempting Eve to eat of the forbidden tree's fruit. The poet wishes Julia's path free of snakes and false lights. He encourages her to walk without fear and not to linger, not to be afraid of the night. There will be no ghosts to frighten her, he adds, teasingly as much as reassuringly.
The third stanza returns to night's fearfulness. The poet tells Julia not to be weighed down, not to be troubled by the darkness. Although the night is moonless, there are stars, which he compares to innumerable candles that will light her way to him. Despite his assurance of ample light from star points, the reader ought to note that the assignation is to take place under cover of full darkness—not only at night but on a moonless night.
Having shown her that the journey to his door from hers through the night is one she ought not to fear making, the poet implores Julia to allow him to beg her to come to him. Only then does the poet mention one of Julia's attributes. He refers to the color silver and its luminous property in relation to Julia's feet, although the sense of a silver casting, or the lady as an idol, is also suggested. He is alluding to the quality of quickness also attributed to silver, or to mercury, which is called quicksilver. He then suggests their spiritual and physical communion, as well as a lover's worshipful devotion, and again refers to his lady as a goddess.
Carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning "seize the day." It is essentially a philosophy whose sole tenet is to enjoy what there is to enjoy in the present, postulating terrestrial experience as valid in itself. It does not, in the manner of Puritanism, consider life on earth as only preparatory for an eternal condition after life that can be attained only through renunciation and suffering. This philosophy runs through much of Herrick's poetry, sometimes pronounced, sometimes submerged. In "The Night Piece: To Julia," it is a governing idea at the root of the entire poem.
- The English composer Roger Quilter (1877-1953) set "The Night Piece: To Julia" to music around 1901. It is available on Roger Quilter: Songs, Vol. 2 (1995).
Safety and Danger
The theme of safety inside a realm of danger as a practical problem is overt in the poem. Walking at night, in the dark, is hazardous. Dangerous creatures like snakes, or deceptive visions forged in the darkness, may be abroad. Or one may experience the night itself as spooky. On all these points the poet assures Julia to have no fear. Implicitly, the poem suggests by images of snakes and will-o'-the-wisps that Julia may have conscientious objections and not merely practical ones—that her liaison with him may put her in moral danger. It is the problem of sin that the poet addresses by allusions to such emblematic representations of sin as the will-o'-the-wisp and the snake. The will-o'-the-wisp is often assumed to be a work of the devil, an illumination on earth derived from one of hell's burning coals glowing on earth. The snake, in Judeo-Christianity, is a primary representation of the devil, for in that guise he appeared in Eden to Eve when he tempted her to eat fruit of the forbidden tree and accomplished her expulsion, along with Adam and all mankind, from paradise. The poem is a spell by which the poet banishes such dangers and invokes safety.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" is a poem devised to persuade the woman that the poet desires to visit him at night by convincing her that it is not hazardous to come to him. The theme of seduction is implicit, however, rather than overt, since the poet hardly speaks of the lady's qualities or his own. Rather, assuming that her desire is equal to his, the task he sets to in his poem is to encourage her to overcome whatever hesitations she might offer against the liaison, on the surface assuming the hesitations to be practical rather than conscientious.
TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Review several poems by the early seventeenth-century poet John Donne, and then write an essay comparing his poetry to Herrick's poetry. Pay particular attention to differences in diction and to the handling of the subject matter.
- Reviewing the several ideological, religious, and political cultures that make up the American landscape, discuss various attitudes and approaches to love and lust presently influencing the nature of American culture, politics, and values. In an essay, compare these circumstances to those in seventeenth-century England.
- Prepare a twenty-minute oral report on the English Civil War. Discuss the conditions that led up to the war, the factions, the issues, the various responses to the issues, and the results of the war, both at the time and afterward.
- Write a song or poem in which you attempt to persuade someone to do something, showing what obstacles may exist to frustrate the desired action and how those obstacles can be overcome.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" is a poem implicitly celebrating the pursuit of love and sensual pleasure. The nocturnal world of glowworms, will-o'-the-wisps, elves, shooting stars, darkness, ghosts, and the moon surrounds the nocturnal liaison. The sensuous night world constitutes the substance of Herrick's verse and is presented as a palpable presence. Glowworms have eyes that are used to attract other glowworms. Shooting stars flame and vanish, as if emblems in nature of passion aroused and satisfied. Elves have glowing eyes. Snakes bite. Ghosts frighten. The difficulties the poet asks the lady to overcome in her passage to him are all resolved in the sensuous image of her feet, which are silvery perhaps because of silver slippers upon them or because they have the swiftness of quicksilver. The final image of the poet pouring his soul into Julia is obvious in its erotic sensuality. It is an image that yokes the spiritual and the sensual because of the suggestiveness of the word "soul," which is often associated with semen, as it is by Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (written 1265-1274) when he considers, in articles 1 and 2 of question 118, whether the soul is transmitted through the process of sexual insemination.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" is essentially a catalog, or a list. In it, the poet enumerates the positive phenomena he invokes to accompany Julia, the object of his desire, on her walk to visit him at night as well as the harmful phenomena he wishes to preclude. He lists the glowworm, the stars and shooting stars, and elves as desired companions and the will-o'-the-wisp, the snake, the slowworm, and ghosts as forces he banishes in his poem.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" is written in a verse whose pastoral innocence belies its more sophisticated, seductive purpose. It has a sing-song lilt in large measure achieved by the aabba rhyme scheme in each of its stanzas. The repetitions of the rhymes are not confined to each stanza individually, either. The long e sound dominates the rhyming in all but the third stanza. In the last stanza, all five lines end in words with a long e sound, including the third and fourth lines, which are otherwise given a variant rhyme.
The pattern of Herrick's verse was given by Ben Jonson in a song, "The Faery Beam upon You" from his 1621 masque, The Gypsies Metamorphosed. Like Jonson's lyric, "The Night Piece: To Julia" presents a five line stanza with an a,a,b,b,a rhyme.
Like Jonson's lyric, "The Night Piece: To Julia" is composed in verses typically of four essentially iambic feet, with the last truncated, in the first and second lines; three such feet, with one truncated, in the third and fourth lines; and four complete feet in the fifth line. (An iambic foot is a measure of two beats, the first unaccented, the second accented. A truncated foot is one with only one beat; the second beat is cut off, or truncated.) Thus, the first two lines have seven syllables, most often arranged in a pattern where the first syllable is unaccented, the second accented, the third unaccented, and so forth, until the line ends with an incomplete foot, that is, with only an unaccented syllable. The third and fourth lines follow a similar pattern but are one foot shorter. The last line of each stanza is a full four-foot line: there are eight beats and the last foot is complete, giving a sense of resolution.
Cavalier Poetry and Metaphysical Poetry
Essentially, two genres, differing considerably from each other, defined what poetry could be during the seventeenth century. Metaphysical poetry, represented most typically by the poetry of John Donne (1572-1631), is a poetry characterized by its intricacy and difficulty, by its psychological depth, and by the complexity of its images and metaphors. Donne, in one of his sonnets, for example, presents the jarring image of the round earth—a recently discovered geographical fact that replaced the idea of a flat earth—along with the older idea of the earth having corners, which can only be imagined, for a globe has no corners.
Cavalier poetry, on the other hand, written by various cavalier poets, of whom Herrick was one of the foremost, attempted to appear to be a casual, even offhand poetry dedicated to celebrating worldly pleasure and elegance in its form and content. The cavalier poets were often courtiers, although Herrick was not, and royalists, or supporters of the monarchy, which Herrick was. They opposed the moral strictness of Puritanism and the Puritan call for political and ecclesiastical reform or even revolution. Cavalier poetry, celebrating the delights of the present world and not sacrificing them for the rewards of a forthcoming existence, is noted for its lyricism, simplicity, and for its concern for easy pleasure and its delight in elegance. Herrick, for example, wrote a gracefully elegant lyric about the graceful elegance and captivating liquidity of Julia's clothes. As the metaphysical poets followed John Donne, the cavalier poets followed Ben Jonson. Donne's is an abstruse and complex poetry of disputation; Jonson's, a poetry of luminosity and songfulness.
The English Civil War
The English Civil War was fought between Royalists, or Cavaliers, those who supported the English monarchy and the Anglican Church, and Parliamentarians, those who supported ecclesiastical reform and the English Parliament in its power struggle with the king; Parliamentarians were also called Roundheads because of their close-cropped haircuts, which distinguished them from the long-haired Cavaliers. The first battles of the war were fought between 1642 and 1646; the second set of battles, in 1648 and 1649; and the third set, between 1649 and 1651, ending with a decisive victory for the forces of Parliament at the battle of Worcester. King Charles I was beheaded in 1649. A law was passed forbidding his son Charles II from being declared king of England then, although the Parliament of Scotland did proclaim him king. Rather than assume his throne, however, Charles II fled to France with the final defeat of his forces in 1651, to return to England and the throne only in 1660 with the Restoration. Between 1651 and 1660 England became first a Commonwealth and then, in 1653, a Protectorate, ruled by Oliver Cromwell and then by his son Richard. Revolutionary change was religious as well as political, since the exclusive power of the Church of England was terminated and the religion of England was during that period an austere Protestant Puritanism.
The Founding of the Royal Society
The reference to the glowworm in "The Night Piece: To Julia" is noteworthy for the way Herrick easily assumes a knowledge of entomology in his mistress and his readers. The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, dedicated to the study and advancement of science, was founded in 1660 after the Restoration of the English monarchy. Its foundation signaled official recognition and sanction of scientific methodology. Advocates of natural science, observation, and experimentation—that is, advocates of scientific methodology as a way of understanding the natural world—had already formed secret societies for the dissemination of the new discoveries in the natural sciences that were being made and recorded throughout Europe. The reason for early scientific caution resulted from possible conflicts with theological explanations derived from holy writ for natural phenomena. The great scientist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was brought before the Catholic Inquisition and, on pain of death, forced to recant his telescopic observations that the earth was not the center of the universe but traveled around the sun.
COMPARE & CONTRAST
- 1600s: Cavalier poets write lyrics praising a life of amorous dalliance or lamenting love's disappointments, celebrating fashion and seduction.
Today: Rock stars and rappers write songs about their experiences of love and rejection, influence fashion, and project larger-than-life personae.
- 1600s: England is torn by social, religious, and political discord until civil war erupts between opposing factions
Today: The social unity of the United Kingdom is disrupted by cultural, religious, and political differences between longtime residents and recent immigrants, many from former English colonies.
- 1600s: Despite the objections and disdain of people who believe that religious authority alone can explain the phenomena of nature, scientific societies develop to explore and disseminate the work of natural scientists.
Today: Although science is well established as a legitimate mode of inquiry into natural phenomena, some religious fundamentalists still offer resistance to scientific research or to explanations that appear to conflict with theological explanations.
"‘Trivial’ and ‘pagan’ are the generic epithets which criticism has habitually hung upon" Herrick, notes S. Musgrove in The Universe of Robert Herrick. Such judgment endured beyond the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (when hardly any critical attention was paid to Herrick) and into the nineteenth. In fact, a few of Herrick's poems were reintroduced to readers by John Nichols in his Gentleman's Magazine in 1796 and 1797, and though they were admired and repeatedly anthologized because of the graceful lyricism of their verse, they were dismissed for the limitations of their subject. A. Leigh DeNeef, in "This Poetick Liturgie": Robert Herrick's Ceremonial Mode, cites a particularly virulent attack upon Herrick by the English poet and critic Robert Southey in his 1830 work An Introductory Essay on the Lives and Works of Our Uneducated Poets. Southey declares, "We have lately seen the whole of Herrick's poems republished, a coarse-minded and beastly writer, whose dunghill, when the few flowers that grew therein had been transplanted, ought never to have been disturbed." Roger B. Rollin notes in Robert Herrick that the famed nineteenth-century critic Edmund Gosse (writing in Cornhill Magazine in 1875) recognized Herrick's "wonderful art and skill" but found in the poetry an "easy-going callousness of soul" that "makes it impossible for him to feel very deeply." Furthermore, F. R. Leavis, in his essay "English Poetry in the 17th Century," published in 1935 in Scrutiny (as cited by Rollin in "Trust to Good Verses": Herrick Tercentenary Essays), is less cruel in his rhetoric than Southey or Gosse, calling Herrick's verse "trivially charming."
In spite of these criticisms, Herrick has survived his detractors, and his command of language and meter has long been recognized. Writing in 1804, Nathan Drake, whose "On the Life, Writings and Genius of Robert Herrick" is cited in "Trust to Good Verses," offers one of the earliest serious considerations of Herrick's poetry. Drake calls attention to the unevenness of Herrick's output and to his mastery of the poet's craft. Indeed, Herrick's verse is now admired both by lay readers and by scholars. Rollin, in his introduction to "Trust to Good Verses," calls Herrick "a serious and significant artist rather than a minor if skillful craftsman; … his Hesperides is an encyclopedic and ultimately coherent work rather than a miscellany of charming but trivial poems. "Rollin concludes that "many of those poems exhibit patterns of intellectual significance and emotional depth beneath their polished and seemingly simple surfaces."
Heims is a writer and teacher living in Paris. In the following essay, Heims examines the latent content suggested by the imagery in "The Night Piece: To Julia."
Robert Herrick's "The Night Piece: To Julia," simple as it appears—simple as it really is—contains twenty lines that hardly seem to present any difficulty to a lay reader. The elements of riddle, learning, and song are casually, elegantly, and effortlessly combined to form verse that suggests both poetry and music. (The English composer Roger Quilter [1877-1953], in fact, did set the poem to music.) Because of its hybrid condition, and despite its easily grasped meaning as a verse designed to woo the lady whom the poet desires to visit his chamber at night, there is meaning resonant beneath the surface. Ambiguity arising from a suppressed sense of sin in the face of a consuming sense of desire governs the rhetoric of "The Night Piece: To Julia." Unspoken though it is in the manifest discourse of the poem, the latent drama or conflict in the poem is conveyed through the imagery of the poem and, because the poem is a poem of seduction, through the attempt to persuade Julia to consent to what must be a clandestine nighttime meeting.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" is a bagatelle, a seeming trifle, a graceful and debonair lyric that appears to be all surface, even if a highly decorated surface carved with images of elves, shooting stars, glowworms, snakes, will-o'-the-wisps, ghosts, and dainty, scurrying, silver feet. All its content appears manifest, and its meaning appears to be expressed without mediation by symbol or metaphor. Those elves, shooting stars, glowworms, snakes, will-o'-the-wisps, ghosts, and silvery feet, after all, can be read as concrete, nonsymbolic fixtures natural to the rhetorical landscape of the poem and to the geography of the night walk on which the poet is coaxing Julia to set out. But they also suggest underlying meanings for which they are only figures.
"The Night Piece: To Julia" is a lover's attempt to persuade his lady, through assurances of the physical safety of her journey, to visit him at night. Harm, he assures her, will not befall her, in large measure because of his poem, which is not only an invitation to the lady but also a spell, an invocation to aiding forces and an injunction against interfering ones. Noteworthy, and perhaps odd in such a poem of invitation—indeed, of seduction—is the absence of any declaration of the poet's love for the lady or a celebration of her virtues until the final three lines of the poem. Rather than being a declaration of love, a catalog of her charms, or a defense of dalliance, the poem is an assurance to Julia that night presents no obstacle to her coming to his chambers. For that reason, satisfying the desires associated with love should be quite easy and, according to the poet, will present no danger. Precisely that is why she ought to consent to visit him.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
- The Diary of Samuel Pepys, by Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), written between 1660 and 1669, is an honest and clear-eyed account of daily life in seventeenth-century London, focusing on the social, political, and cultural manners and morals of the time.
- "The Ecstasy," by John Donne (1572-1631), first published in 1633, is a poem that describes the emotional excitement of the meeting of two lovers. The poem exhibits a psychological complexity and imaginative richness that exemplifies the difference between metaphysical and cavalier poetry.
- "To His Coy Mistress," by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), first printed in 1681, is a poem of seduction that mixes the imagistic complexity of metaphysical poetry with the idea of making the most of the present moment. The latter idea is representative of cavalier poetry in general and Herrick's verse in particular.
- A Masque of the Metamorphosed Gypsies, by Ben Jonson (1572-1637), performed for King James in 1621, is a courtier's entertainment devised for his sovereign. It is replete with examples of Jonson's lyrical vitality.
In demonstration of the ease and safety of the visit, the poet evokes the landscape of night and subverts night's characteristic properties: darkness and unseen, lurking dangers. He summons glowworms, elves, and stars to guide her. He banishes will-o'-the-wisps, snakes, and ghosts, assuring her that they will not be present to harm her. All these nocturnal phenomena that he conjures or banishes can be read with symbolic as well as unmediated significance, suggesting, therefore, a latent tension apparently absent or ignored in the manifest communication. The poet is not merely or really telling the lady about the natural world but is addressing her conscience. The manifest content must reinforce the latent message of the poem: take the present pleasure. The journey will not imperil the lady, and neither will its purpose. Through reference to the flesh, the poet animadverts to the spirit; but he returns to the flesh having placated the spirit. His song has also become a dance, and the graceful and perfect metrics of his poem suggest the balance he maintains when he enters the realms of passion. He woos formally. He keeps the passion out of his poem, saving it for the lady in the encounter he imagines in the last three lines of his verse.
In his construction of the landscape that Julia must traverse to reach him, the poet mixes light and dark as well as nature and folklore. The glowworm's eyes, the eyes that meet the reader's eyes at the first encounter with the text and that the poet wishes to bestow on Julia for her journey to him, have since at least as long ago as William Shakespeare's time been associated with erotic attraction. In act 3, scene 1, line 171 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania instructs her attendant fairies how to tend the peasant weaver, Bottom, upon whom she dotes. She tells her minions to light the waxy thighs of bees at the glowworm's eyes and use them as candles to guide her "love to bed." What natural scientists later ascertained, that glowworms signal each other for mating through bioluminescence, was previously intuited in folk knowledge. The glowworm's eyes, the shooting stars, the elves with their glowing eyes, all suggest the romance of the erotic dance of courtship and the intensity of a passion, like a shooting star, that by its nature blazes gloriously and dissolves in its own incandescence. Elves suggest the friendly forces that are the agencies of achieving wish fulfillment. As much as all these bright phenomena symbolize the evanescent light of passion, they also suggest a counterforce to darkness. Thus these symbols are charged with contrasting but mutually supporting properties: the accumulated, hidden light of passion and the open, flowing light that eases the journey toward the fulfillment of desire. The poet conjures an environment conducive to the escapade he seeks and treats the tryst as an escapade indeed, not as a transgression. Yet it is to take place on a moonless night, cloaked, thereby, despite the stars, in darkness.
As the counter-imagery set beside the images of light suggests, the poet seems to be aware of the element of transgression. In the second stanza, Herrick presents a catalog of quite a different sort from the beneficent one he conjures in the first. In his recapitulation of the phenomena that he wishes to be absent when she makes her way through the night to an assignation with him, the poet lists forces that not only suggest the dangers one may encounter crossing the fields at night but also are emblems of sin and sinfulness. Slowworms replace glowworms, snakes usurp elves, will-o'-the-wisps trump shooting stars, and ghosts can haunt the night, even if only in the thoughts of a silly girl, as the poet implies by the teasing tone that he uses in mentioning ghosts and their absence. In his prayer, all these phenomena are banished, but in the consciousness of the poem's reader, they are present in their absence by their being named. The things one may be relieved from worrying about are, of course, the things that are the sources of concern. As you come to me, the poet assures his mistress, there will be no phantom light to confuse you on your nocturnal path, nor will there be the risk of snake bite or night fright. These assurances of bodily safety suggest spiritual dangers at the same time as they do corporal ones. While a shooting star may suggest the evanescence of passion, with its flare-up and fade-out, the will-o'-the-wisp suggests deception, a light from hell leading the soul in the wrong direction. But sinfulness is not what their liaison is about, the poet thus indirectly assures Julia. The snake itself is the archetypal emblem of diabolical presence and influence, rooted as the snake is in the account of the fall from grace in Eden. Thus the poem addresses and attempts to allay the latent concerns that would be aroused by such a meeting as the poet is beseeching—not anxiety about a tortuous nightscape but anxiety about succumbing to sin. The poet banishes the emblems of sin from their rendezvous.
The irony latent in the poet's overtly focusing on the corporal dangers in his wooing, while apparently overlooking the spiritual ones, is given a final turn in the concluding three lines. The poet pictures himself at Julia's feet, there to perform in reverence to her an act of worship suggesting submission to a deity. Thus his lady is his deity, and by her permission to let him pour his spirit into her, she strips his desire, or its enactment, of any taint of the sin of the intercourse. Indeed, the poem alludes to this sin but has not spoken of it, as the poem's goal is to avoid and banish sin from consideration.
Source: Neil Heims, Critical Essay on "The Night Piece: To Julia," in Poetry for Students, Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009.
In the following excerpt, Landrum examines the character of Julia in Herrick's Hesperides.
Robert Herrick wrote hundreds of poems about real or imagined women. It is generally conceded that his "many fresh and fragrant mistresses" were purely imaginary, but understanding how he constructs gender is vital in developing an accurate view of his poetic art. Modern criticism often depicts Herrick as a propagandist for the received standards of his day, yet close examination of his texts reveals that he recognized the ambiguities of gender and the inconsistencies of his era's beliefs pertaining to women, disrupted and interrogated them, and often engaged in outright parodic critique of accepted seventeenth-century gender mores.
The stance Herrick takes in relation to gender issues is rooted in the double-coding of female presence that already existed in the English Renaissance. On one hand stood the traditional Christian idea that women should be subordinate to men—an idea accepted by Protestants and Catholics alike. In Herrick's society, women were viewed "regardless of social rank, as wives and mothers … and were considered morally evil, intellectually inferior," and "framed by God only for domestic duties" (Dunn, 15). Female submission was considered essential to an ordered, stable society, so that "as wives were subject to their husbands, so women were subject to men, whose authority was sustained informally through culture, custom and differences in education, and more formally through the law" (Amussen, 3).
Yet within this universally held set of notions about the nature and role of women, hinges, flaws, and contradictions abounded. Neoplatonic thought exalted woman. The cult of the Virgin, Petrarchan love conventions, and the cult of Elizabeth all grew out of this belief in the transcendence of womanhood. And the stringencies of patriarchy, though generally accepted in English society at the time, were qualified by the popular idea of "companionate marriage," which recognized God's grace as operative in women as well as in men and saw this grace as a check against unbridled notions of male superiority and the domination of wives by husbands (McDonald, 260-61).
This contradictory state of affairs was further complicated by the fact that, in contrast to continental Europe, early English society seems to have been exceptional in affording freedoms to women. Many English women were educated and prominent in the period when Herrick wrote his poems, especially at the court of Charles I, where Henrietta Maria "enhanced the status of women by demanding that her courtiers adopt the platonizing attitudes popular at the time in France" (Latt, 40). Herrick would have known the effects of Henrietta Maria's progressive attitude through his contact with the Carolinian court as a chaplain and lyricist before he took up pastoral duties in Devonshire.
Herrick's progressive attitude can be seen in the compositions he addressed not to imaginary mistresses but to real, flesh-and-blood women. His ambiguous attitude, reflecting the uncertainties of his own day, often crops up in these poems. To be sure, women exist as wives and maidens for Herrick, and his attention to them takes the form of sexual attraction in its modified and acceptable version of visual attraction to outward beauty. Yet one often detects an undercurrent of contradictory darkness flowing beneath safe conventions. The women Herrick addresses in his verses are beautiful and fragrant; the poet compares them to goddesses and flowers and lauds them for their good looks and virtue; the imagery he uses suggests the softness and passivity that was also seen as a proper social role for women. But lurking just underneath all of these conventions are the same sorts of "counterplots" that Claude Summers said work to disrupt and undermine Herrick's political poetry (167). While convention operates on the surface of Herrick's poems on women, a great deal of parodic revisionism is simultaneously taking place.
… The verses dedicated to, or dealing with, Julia have been numbered at seventy-seven (Coiro, "Herrick's ‘Julia’ Poems," 67). One of the Herrick poems frequently anthologized, "Upon Julia's Clothes," is among these numbers. The predominance of poems about her led Gosse to conclude that, while all the other mistresses of Hesperides were imaginary, Julia was a real person in Herrick's life, probably a lover in his youth before he went to Devonshire. Gosse picks up on the fact that Julia is the only one of the mistresses for whom we have a physical description.
… He goes on to project an image of her personality gleaned from references to her in Herrick's poetry. His construction of her is worth quoting at length. She is
an easy, kindly woman … ready to submit to the fancies of her lyric lover; pleased to have roses on her head, still more pleased to perfume herself with storax, spikenard, galbanum, and all the other rich gums he loved to smell; dowered with so much refinement of mind as was required to play fairly on the lute, and to govern a wayward poet with tact; not so modest or so sensitive as to resent the grossness of his fancy, yet respectable enough and determined enough to curb his license at times. She bore him one daughter, it seems, to whom he addressed of his latest poems one of his tamest. (Gosse, 137)
The poem to which he refers is "My Daughter's Dowry." His remarks suggest Julia is somewhat of a male fantasy to Gosse, a combination of the call girl who willingly acts out Herrick's sexual games and the prudish governess who reigns [sic] him in when he gets too bizarre (and here perhaps we have an image of what Victorian men really wanted when they let their minds roam free).
While most critics reject Gosse's position that she was a real woman with whom Herrick was romantically and sexually involved in his younger days, her position as a literary creation and as symbolic presence in the poetry has been noted and speculated upon. Her name has been associated with Jove. John T. Shawcross notes the connection of her name with both Juno and Venus, and also notes that it is "the feminine form of Julius, the name of a Romans gens, probably resulting from a contraction of Jovilios, meaning pertaining to or descending from Jupiter (as father-god)" (96). This leads him to note the many times religious language is connected with her and to attach salvational significance to her presence in Hesperides. This idea of something redemptive or divine in the figure of Julia was taken further by Heather Asals, who connected Julia with Christ through the language of Proverbs. Asals pointed out that Julia is connected with the language found in the Old Testament books generally associated with Solomon—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs—and that the allegorical figure of Wisdom found in Proverbs was feminine. Asals draws the link between Julia and Jesus Christ, who Paul had called the wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24), finding a redemptive element in the persona's relationship to her (368-70).
The connection of Julia to Wisdom should not be overlooked. In a patriarchal society, the embodiment of wisdom as female would be anomalous, and yet the interpretative tradition that saw female Wisdom in the Old Testament as a prefiguration of Christ was well-established. Asals notes that the connection to Julia is forged through intertextual reference and language in the Julia poems that reflects the language of the wisdom literature attributed to Solomon (374).
The most comprehensive study of Julia is by Anne Baynes Coiro. She notes the evolution of Julia's character throughout Hesperides from the early poems where Julia is apparently a virgin who is venerated and worshiped by Herrick's persona to a woman who participates in "churching," an Anglican ceremony to be performed after childbirth. As Hesperides progresses, Julia assumes much more the role of mother. And Coiro alone notes the connection of Julia with Julia Herrick, Robert Herrick's mother, so named in the poem, "His Tears to Thamasis," H-1028. In extant records she is usually referred to as Julian or Juliana, but is "called simply Julia here in the only surviving mention that Herrick made of her" (Coiro, "Julia," 83). Coiro makes the following observations:
That Julia, "prime of all," should bear the same name as Herrick's mother seems, at the least, worth noting. Yet the name has never been recognized by any critic of Herrick. The closest acknowledgement of the identical names is elliptical and framed as a warning; F. W. Moorman cautions, "of the poet's relations with [his mother] we know nothing, and speculation on such a matter is particularly undesirable." The reluctance of critics to cite such an obvious fact as the poet's choice of his mother's name for his most important mistress demonstrates the curious resistance of readers to question or expand the traditional interpretations of Herrick's poetry. (83)
Critics are fastidious about entering the perilous realms of psychosexual speculation. The difficulty with speculating on how Herrick regarded his mother is the same difficulty all critics have felt due to lack of supporting documentation about his life. Reconstructing a psychological profile of Herrick is a perilous venture.
But I would like to suggest a connection between Julia of the mistresses and Julia Herrick. It is not psychological, not a manifestation of oedipal desire projected by the son on to the mother through the creative medium of poetry. Rather, the intent is parodic. Herrick's Julia connects the enterprise of the persona in Hesperides with the female-centered environment over which Julia Herrick presided in the days of Robert's childhood. Hesperides is authorized by a female muse (mad though she may be) but also given unity by a feminine figure, Julia, whose presence creates unity and whose evolution as a character shapes the dramatic development found throughout the volume. Behind the character of Julia is Julia Herrick, Robert's touchstone, the figure most responsible for his social and psychological development, to whom his loyalty was due, and for whom he would feel a great deal of sympathy and a substantive desire to come to her defense, especially with regard to her place in society. Julia Herrick was restricted and restrained in English society, limited due to her gender, but her namesake knows no such boundaries in Hesperides.
… The connection between Julia and Julia Herrick is not so much psychological as it is literary and social. It is not fantasy or incest wish fulfillment, it is wish fulfillment projected into the social realm and related to how women should be treated and regarded. Julia Herrick's memory lurks in the questioning of gender roles frequently found in Hesperides. Herrick's mother was an exemplar for him in this regard. While we have no direct references to what she might have gone through as a single mother in the time, we know the legal and social status of women then. No doubt some of the less generous terms society dealt to women in early modern England had an impact on Julia Herrick, a thing of which her youngest son would have taken note. In the disruptive landscape of Hesperides, Julia is often seen. As Coiro points out, she moves with the persona through the different stages of development in the volume of poetry. She is a constant to which the persona frequently returns. His return to the character of Julia may be understood as a return to questioning, to interrogation, and to parody. Julia is a signifying character representative not of Julia Herrick directly but of the need Herrick saw for the vindication of the feminine against the strictures English society had leveled against women.
Various observations on Julia's presence in the fabric of Hesperides exist within Herrick criticism, as we have noted, but in general it can be said that Julia represents, and is a mirror for, the creative response of the persona to the various topics within the poetic volume. Her personality is a rubric of sorts, and through it the speaker of Hesperides enters certain spaces of discourse where convention may be challenged and relationships of mutuality between genders explored.
At the most basic level, the character of Julia exists as an object of aesthetic awe and wonder to the persona, a figure regarded through traditional Petrarchan attitude and with attendant terms. Often, the vocabulary of such poetry would anatomize the woman. Nancy J. Vickers argues that since the Diana-Actaeon myth was understood as a topos for the encounter of the pursuing lover (Actaeon) with the female love-interest prey (Diana), who unexpectedly unleashes her feminine power against him, an early strategy of Petrarchan love poets was "the neutralization, through descriptive dismemberment, of the threat. He [the poet] transforms the visible totality into scattered words, the body into signs; his description, at one remove from his experience, safely permits and perpetuates his fascination" (273). While I can find no reference to the Actaeon story in Hesperides, Herrick does seem to have picked up on this tendency enough that he engages in this same sort of poetic dismemberment of Julia. She is anatomized into "edible or septic pieces" (Schoenfeldt, 143). Her lips, breath, hair, teeth, cheeks, breasts, nipples, sweat, legs, voice, and other body parts are singled out for praise in different poems scattered throughout the secular verses. Herrick's persona can safely approach her in this manner.
But the relationship of Julia and the persona rapidly moves beyond the level of the admiring poet and the edible woman.
Julia and the persona forge a relationship in the book. Unlike the more conventional love poetry that operates around Petrarchan or medieval-romantic paradigms, and in which the remote lover is finally the possession of the pursuing lover, the persona, "Herrick," and Julia interact, even converse at points. This is seen early on in poems such as "His sailing from Julia," H-35. The narrator asks Julia to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods for his safety in his voyage and, for love's sake, to kiss his picture. Rather than the normal protestations of love or admiration of body parts, this poem curiously touches the persona's need for assistance and affirmation.
… The emotional tone of this poem, its acknowledgement of fear on the part of the speaker, and his dependence on Julia for his continued identity, are in contrast to the glowing verses about her eyes, breasts, and nipples. Here Julia is not a constructed object of the persona's masculine gaze. The poem contains indications of mutuality. Julia, in fact, assumes the role of priestess and the narrator of communicant, and the narrator is dependent upon her. The phrase embedded in the poem, "mercie and truth live with thee," refers back to an incident recorded in 2 Samuel 15. David flees from his son Absalom, who is trying to kill him. He is surrounded by supporters, including one Ittai, a non-Hebrew dwelling as a foreigner in the land. David tells him he should not take the risk of fleeing with the royal entourage and being killed by Absalom's forces, saying, "return thou … mercy and truth be with thee" (v. 20). Ittai, and his people, however, remain loyal and accompany David in his flight from Jerusalem. The narrator hopes to see the same type of loyalty in Julia. This particular section of scripture, too, shows David, the King of Israel, in a state of abjection, often weeping, remorseful, almost certain of his own doom. It is the loyal supporters like Ittai that enable him to survive and eventually to prevail. Perhaps the poem suggests a role reversal similar to what is found in the biblical text. In the biblical text the king becomes the dependent one and his subjects are the active, capable agents in the situation. So with Julia and the persona. The conventions that restrict the female character to being beautiful and desirable give way in this poem to a colloquy of mutuality.
Julia often assumes the role of priestess. In H-539 she is the Flaminica Dialis, the Queen Priest, who must make sacrifice for her and the narrator, who have neglected the upkeep of Venus's temple. Here again, the narrator is strangely passive and Julia is the active figure in the situation. She is the one who must put on vestments and burn incense. The speaker begs, "Take then thy Censer; Put in Fire, and thus, / O Pious-Priestesse! Make a Peace for us." The entire poem is one of Herrick's curious conflations of Christian and Pagan, for while the worship is to Venus and she is the Roman priestess, the accouterments are reminiscent of a Christian church. The ceremony, on which depends the very lives of the characters in the poem, is entirely in her charge, so that the last words of the poem are a statement to her, "Redemption comes by Thee." The narrator assumes a passive role, Julia a religiously active role. The poem is vaguely suggestive of the conventional worship of love, but gender protocol is reversed. Julia is burning male incense.
This condition of equality is found elsewhere. "Herrick" and Julia converse in another poem centered around religious activity. The content of "The Sacrifice, by way of Discourse betwixt himselfe and Julia," H-870, is not particularly remarkable as a poem. What is notable, however, is that the persona and Julia seem to be … of equal status. The speaker asks if everything is ready for the sacrifice. Julia replies that all propriety has been observed and all is ready, including the animal "we bring / For our Trespasse-offering." The inclusive plural pronoun appears here, and Julia exhibits relaxed familiarity with the workings and requirements of sacrifice. The persona responds:
All is well; now next to these
Put we on pure Surplices;
And with Chaplets crown'd, we'l rost
With perfumes the Holocaust:
And (while we the gods invoke)
Reade acceptance by the smoake.
Neither of these priests seems to hold rank over the other. Their equality is a startling variance from the accepted roles of men and women in early modern England. By removing the scene to pagan times, Herrick is able to evoke this sort of gender egalitarianism, but references to surplices and chapels, quotations and language from the Bible, and theological words like "transgression," "altar," even "old religion," all give an unquieting sense of modernity to the situations he describes. Julia is on equal footing with narrator, in a removed, artistic environment to be sure, but one that Herrick always manages to link to the tangible world in which his readers lived.
Julia seems, too, intimate enough and important enough to the persona that he frequently shares with her his thoughts and feelings about death, usually his own—though one poem he writes deals with her death. A poem in which the persona considers his demise is "His last request to Julia." The request is, "dearest Julia come, / and go with me to chuse my Buriall roome: / My Fates are ended; when thy Herrick dyes, / Claspe thou his Book, then close thou up his Eyes." This is not the type of thing a Petrarchan poet would say to the object of his affection. Julia is on a level with the narrator that he can put the deposition of his corpse in her charge, and of his art as well. She is to close his eyes and close his "book" too. The narrator addresses her demise in "To Julia," H-584.
… Julia's death is prefigured by the deaths of the saints to whom the service the narrator reads is commemorative. Currently, however, "we two" sing the service together. This service, unlike the others mentioned up to this point, is a Christian service. Julia, though a woman, co-officiates. At that time, women could not serve in the Anglican Church in any ministerial capacity, yet in this poem she is singing the service with the officiating priest. Here exists not only mutuality but equality of role in an area where gender inequality was strictly enforced.
Like many Renaissance writers, Herrick is not consistently liberating in his attitude toward Julia or his other female subjects. Very often she becomes the object of his gaze, and in this he prefers her naked. At least three poems bring out the voyeur in Herrick's narrator (H-414, H-824, H-939), and he asks her to "Appeare thou to mine eyes / As smooth, and nak't, as she that was / The prime of Paradice." Her breasts get a lot of attention, and he talks about them in more than one poem (H-230, H-440, H-491), asking to see them or to caress them. In this, Gordon Braden's observation that Hesperides, lacks adult sexuality (223) and that Herrick is a peeping Tom, seems to have more credence than some critics have afforded him (see Rollin, "Erotics of Criticism"). Yet if indeed something of Julia Herrick is in the character of Julia in Hesperides, this distancing would be understandable. With Julia, "prime of all," the narrator wants to see, to touch, but not to consummate. This is not the case with the other mistresses. In a poem addressed to Anthea (H-74) for example, the speaker frankly states his desire to have intercourse with her.
… With Julia he always stops short of consummation. Coiro has observed that "once Julia [Herrick] is recognized, almost simultaneously, as both mother and object of erotic desire, all of the remaining poems in Hesperides are poems of purification and sacrifice, with no acknowledgement of her physical attraction" (84). The poems of the two sacrificing together have been mentioned. And Julia does move from the role of a woman whom the persona wants to leer at, delighting in her "nipplets" and getting excited when she slips and he gets a glimpse of her genitals, to a woman who has given birth and goes to a "churching" ceremony (H-898). Through the range of poems she inhabits, she becomes a character who inspires but also disrupts, who is the conventional poetic female figure but then a subversive factor in the volume. Readers must always keep in mind that Herrick speaks through a character he has created and that the voice of the character, even though he is occasionally called "Herrick," is not Herrick himself but an imaginative projection of various psychological and creative dispositions. Much of Herrick is in the persona, but the two are not the same. Similarly, Julia has something of Julia Herrick in her. She is the redemptrix of Herrick's poetry, a salvific figure who comes alongside the persona to save him and his poetry. As Julia Herrick figured in her son's life, so the significance of her namesake in his poetical project is considerable. And due to this connection, she is also a disruptive entity who pushes at the limits of early modern English social conventions. She leads the other mistresses, and the rather large gathering of women, real and imagined, that one finds in Hesperides, in a low-key challenge to the historical conditions that Robert Herrick thought inimical to his own mother and to women in general. And what he lacked in understanding on this particular matter he made up for in zeal.
Throughout the text of Hesperides (though not in Noble Numbers), Herrick moves in directions that challenge accepted gender configurations. His references to Julia, to the other mistresses, to his muse, his epithalamium poems, his occasional poems addressing both noble and common women, work together to question accepted norms. Trying to understand Herrick's poetry dealing with women without recognizing this subversive, parodic element only leads one into a pathless quagmire as far as interpretation goes. Herrick defies the limits of standard interpretation in his presentation of gender. The subtle directions in his discourse on the matter open up the social text and suggest new possibilities as far as the manner in which women in his time were regarded, going far beyond the limits of poetic traditions, using text and language, using poetic liturgy, as a means by which accepted injustices might be mollified and eventually perhaps even corrected.
Source: David Landrum, "Robert Herrick and the Ambiguities of Gender," in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 49, No. 2, Summer 2007, pp. 181-207.
In the following excerpt, Chute traces the influence that the English poet Ben Jonson had on Herrick's "The Night Piece: To Julia."
… Herrick had admired and imitated Ben Jonson since the days when he was a goldsmith's apprentice, and he knew very well what a privilege it was to be in the great man's company.
Herrick did not possess either Jonson's intellectual vigor or his scholarship, and since he was a wise man he did not try to change himself into something he was not. Herrick gave thanks in the only way a good poet can, by entering the door Jonson had opened to him and making the territory beyond it his own.
For instance, Jonson had once written a song for one of his plays in which he praised the art of "sweet neglect" in a woman's attire. Herrick borrowed both the idea and the metre, and the result is his own brilliantly original lyric, "Delight in Disorder." For Jonson's moral approach he substituted his own pagan sense of play, and he let his imagination flow over the details of a woman's dress with a most affectionate eye for detail.
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat …
was duly noted by Herrick, who was not only well informed on petticoats but knew how to link them to the most accurate of adjectives.
Once again, some years later, Jonson wrote another poem that Herrick used as the model for a small masterpiece. Jonson wrote some verses on magic and the moon for one of his court masques and used a curious but effective five-line stanza. His good friend Richard Corbet borrowed the metre and in his hands it became doggerel; but when Herrick used it the result was the famous "Night-Piece to Julia."
… Herrick reverenced the art of poetry—what he called "the holy incantation of a verse"—and he reverenced equally the man who had helped him to enter that sacred ground. In Herrick's eyes, Jonson was both priest and saint in an ancient and enchanted land, and he wrote a set of verses that he called "His Prayer to Ben Jonson."
Close as the two men were in their devotion to poetry, there is nothing to indicate that there was a similar closeness in their lives. Herrick was not one of the young protégés whom Jonson took formally under his wing and he was never "sealed of the Tribe of Ben."
… Next to wine and song, Herrick's chief delight was, of course, women, those lovely ladies who flit so amorously through his verses. When he was grey-haired he was still writing about his "fresh and fragrant mistresses," and they fill his poetry with their white arms and their pretty ways—Perilla and Electra, Anthea and Diamene, Lucia, Perenna and over and over again his beloved Julia.
Never were mistresses better suited to a poet, and whether they bore any resemblance to the women Herrick encountered in real life it is impossible to say. With the exception of some young ladies with whom he went junketing up the Thames, none of them seems to exist in London or even in English air. "My girls," as he calls them, were as fragrant as roses and as lovely as daffodils; but none of them is rooted in earth and men seldom encounter such thoroughly satisfactory mistresses except in their dreams.
On the other hand, when Herrick wrote songs to demonstrably real women the tone is not unlike his addresses to Julia. He calls Susan Herrick his "dearest" and compares her to flowers, and when he addresses three poems to his uncle Robert's daughter, Elizabeth Wheeler, she is his "dearest love" and they kiss in the flowery meads. His Valentine to Margaret Falconbrige is also to "my dearest," and the reader would have no way of guessing that Margaret was at the time less than nine years old.
The poems to Julia are more erotic than these, and yet there is no fundamental difference in tone. Herrick is a poet of surfaces, and all beautiful surfaces had a certain resemblance for him. The whiteness of a woman's thigh could stir him to poetry, but so could the sheen of a petticoat or a bough of whitethorn in May, and they all have a kind of innocence that Herrick somehow retains even in his most mischievous verse. If there is a real woman beneath the petticoats he gives no indication of it, and certainly Herrick was no Catullus to report in agonizing reality the progress of an actual love affair.
Herrick's mistresses belong to the light-hearted tradition of Horace with his Chloe and his Lydia, or of Anacreon whose troops of ladies were (he says) as numerous as the waves of the sea. As a poet Herrick was equally willing to bestow his affections wholesale, and he celebrated the pretty things with the same affectionate skill he lavished on violets and primroses. The ladies had reason to be equally grateful to him in return; and the least they could have done, as Herrick once suggested, was to make a yearly pilgrimage to his tomb so that he could cast on his "girls" a final affectionate eye.
Source: Marchette Chute, "Chapter Nineteen," in Two Gentle Men: The Lives of George Herbert and Robert Herrick, Secker & Warburg, 1960, pp. 184-91.
Aquinas, Saint Thomas, "Question 118," in Summa Theologica, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1118.htm (accessed February 8, 2008).
DeNeef, A. Leigh, "This Poetick Liturgie": Robert Herrick's Ceremonial Mode, Duke University Press, 1974, p. 109.
Herrick, Robert, "The Night Piece: To Julia," in Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, 2nd ed., edited by Alexander M. Witherspoon and Frank Warnke, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963, p. 820.
Jonson, Ben, "The Faery Beam upon You," in A Masque of the Metamorphosed Gypsies, in Ben Jonson: Selected Masques, edited by Stephen Orgel, Yale University Press, 1975, pp. 211-12.
Musgrove, S., The Universe of Robert Herrick, Folcroft Library Editions, 1971, p. 3.
Rollin, Roger B., Robert Herrick, Twayne Publishers, 1966, p 207.
Rollin, Roger B., and J. Max Patrick, eds., "Trust to Good Verses": Herrick Tercentenary Essays, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978, pp. 244, 246, 265.
Shakespeare, William, A Midsummer Night's Dream, edited by Wolfgang Clemen, New American Library, 1963, p. 77.
Chute, Marchette, Two Gentlemen: The Lives of George Herbert and Robert Herrick, Dutton, 1959.
A historically illuminating biography of both Herrick and his contemporary George Herbert. Like Herrick, Herbert was a rural clergyman, but unlike Herrick, he produced verse of greater complexity predominantly concerned with his intensely felt relationship with God.
Herbert, George, "The Agony," in The Temple, in Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, 2nd ed., edited by Alexander M. Witherspoon and Frank Warnke, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963, p. 847.
One of the poems in Herbert's collection The Temple (1633), "The Agony," is about sin and love. But as Herrick's poem to Julia about sin and love is a smooth dismissal of the agonizing aspects of both, Herbert's poem penetrates the depth of Christian agony, the suffering of the crucified Christ, as it defines the experience of both terms.
Milton, John, Comus: A Masque; Presented at Ludlow Castle, in John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose, edited by Merritt Y. Hughes, Odyssey Press, 1957, pp. 90-114.
Milton explores the forces of love and the struggle between sin and virtue. Unlike Herrick's simple and elegant lyric, Comus (1634) is a complex, baroque drama.
Starkman, Miriam K., "Noble Numbers and the Poetry of Devotion," in Reason and the Imagination: Studies in the History of Ideas, 1600-1800, edited by Joseph A. Mazzeo, Columbia University Press, 1962, pp. 1-27.
Professor Starkman argues that Herrick's verse is actually devotional poetry, a poetry of divine prayer and worship, framed in a domestic and humanistic context.