Pieter Brueghel, the Elder. Village Scene with Dance Around the May Pole. 1634.
Village Scene with Dance Around the May Pole.
Pieter Brueghel, the Elder, 1634.

by Robert Herrick

GET up, get up for shame, the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
       See how Aurora throws her fair
       Fresh-quilted colours through the air :
       Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
       The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the east
Above an hour since : yet you not dress'd ;
       Nay ! not so much as out of bed?
       When all the birds have matins said
       And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,
       Nay, profanation to keep in,
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.

Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
       And sweet as Flora.  Take no care
       For jewels for your gown or hair :
       Fear not ; the leaves will strew
       Gems in abundance upon you :
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept ;
       Come and receive them while the light
       Hangs on the dew-locks of the night :
       And Titan on the eastern hill
       Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth.   Wash, dress, be brief in praying :
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.

Come, my Corinna, come ; and, coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park
       Made green and trimm'd with trees : see how
       Devotion gives each house a bough
       Or branch : each porch, each door ere this
       An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove ;
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
       Can such delights be in the street
       And open fields and we not see't ?
       Come, we'll abroad ; and let's obey
       The proclamation made for May :
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying ;
But, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

There's not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
       A deal of youth, ere this, is come
       Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
       Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream
       Before that we have left to dream :
And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth :
       Many a green-gown has been given ;
       Many a kiss, both odd and even :
       Many a glance too has been sent
       From out the eye, love's firmament ;
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd, yet we're not a-Maying.

Come, let us go while we are in our prime ;
And take the harmless folly of the time.
       We shall grow old apace, and die
       Before we know our liberty.
       Our life is short, and our days run
       As fast away as does the sun ;
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne'er be found again,
       So when or you or I are made
       A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
       All love, all liking, all delight
       Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

Beads, prayers.
Left to dream, ceased dreaming.
Green-gown, tumble on the grass.

Listen to a sample of Dame Peggy Ashcroft reading Herrick's Corinna

Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 82-84.

Backto Works of Robert Herrick

Site copyright ©1996-2012 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on October 20, 1999. Last updated May 1, 2012.