Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick (baptized August 24, 1591 - October 1674) was a 17th century English poet. Born in Cheapside. London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith. In November, 1592, when Robert was fourteen months old, the elder Herrick wrote his will and then died by "falling" from the fourth story window of his house. Whether or not it was a suicide has never been determined. There is no record of Robert's schooling, but he might have attended school in Westminster. In 1607 he became apprenticed to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, who was a goldsmith and jeweller to the king. The apprenticeship ended after only six years, and Herrick, at age twenty-two, matriculated at Saint John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1617.

Robert Herrick became a member of the Sons of Ben, a group of Cavalier poets centred around an admiration for the works of Ben Jonson. In or before 1627, he took religious orders, and, having been appointed chaplain to the duke of Buckingham, accompanied him on his disastrous expedition to the Isle of Rhé (1627). He became vicar of the parish of Dean Prior, Devon in 1629, a post that carried a term of thirty-one years. It was in the secluded country life of Devon that he wrote some of his best work.

In the wake of the English Civil War, his position was revoked on account of his refusal to make pledge to the Solemn League and Covenant. He then returned to London. His position was returned to him in the Restoration of Charles II and he returned to Devon in 1662, residing there until his death in 1674. A bachelor all his life, many of the women he refers to in his poems are thought to be fictional.

His reputation rests on his Hesperides, a collection of lyric poetry, and the much shorter Noble Numbers, spiritual works, published together in 1648. He is well-known for his bawdy style, referring frequently to physical love.

In one of his more famous poems, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", Herrick reminded young women how fleeting their beauty is. The opening stanza gives a feel for his style:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

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