HIS AGE, DEDICATED TO HIS PECULIAR FRIEND,
M. JOHN WICKES, UNDER THE NAME OF POSTHUMUS.
by Robert Herrick
AH Posthumus ! our years hence fly,
And leave no sound ; nor piety,
Or prayers, or vow
Can keep the wrinkle from the brow ;
But we must on,
As fate does lead or draw us ; none,
None, Posthumus, could ere decline
The doom of cruel Proserpine.
The pleasing wife, the house, the ground,
Must all be left, no one plant found
To follow thee,
Save only the curs'd cypress tree ;
A merry mind
Looks forward, scorns what's left behind ;
Let's live, my Wickes, then, while we may,
And here enjoy our holiday.
We've seen the past best times, and these
Will ne'er return ; we see the seas,
And moons to wane,
But they fill up their ebbs again ;
But vanish'd man,
Like to a lily lost, ne'er can,
Ne'er can repullulate, or bring
His days to see a second spring.
But on we must, and thither tend,
Where Anchus and rich Tullus blend
Their sacred seed :
Thus has infernal Jove decreed ;
We must be made,
Ere long a song, ere long a shade.
Why then, since life to us is short,
Let's make it full up by our sport.
Crown we our heads with roses then,
And 'noint with Tyrian balm ; for when
We two are dead,
The world with us is buried.
Then live we free
As is the air, and let us be
Our own fair wind, and mark each one
Day with the white and lucky stone.
We are not poor, although we have
No roofs of cedar, nor our brave
Baiæ, nor keep
Account of such a flock of sheep ;
Nor bullocks fed
To lard the shambles : barbels bred
To kiss our hands ; nor do we wish
For Pollio's lampreys in our dish.
If we can meet and so confer
Both by a shining salt-cellar,
And have our roof,
Although not arch'd, yet weather-proof,
And ceiling free
From that cheap candle bawdery ;
We'll eat our bean with that full mirth
As we were lords of all the earth.
Well then, on what seas we are toss'd,
Our comfort is, we can't be lost.
Let the winds drive
Our barque, yet she will keep alive
Amidst the deeps ;
'Tis constancy, my Wickes, which keeps
The pinnace up ; which, though she errs
I' th' seas she saves her passengers.
Say, we must part ; (sweet mercy bless
Us both i' th' sea, camp, wilderness),
Can we so far
Stray to become less circular
Than we are now?
No, no, that self-same heart, that vow
Which made us one, shall ne'er undo,
Or ravel so to make us two.
Live in thy peace ; as for myself,
When I am bruised on the shelf
Of time, and show
My locks behung with frost and snow ;
When with the rheum,
The cough, the pthisick, I consume
Unto an almost nothing ; then
The ages fled I'll call again,
And with a tear compare these last
Lame and bad times with those are past ;
While Baucis by,
My old lean wife, shall kiss it dry.
And so we'll sit
By th' fire, foretelling snow and sleet,
And weather by our aches, grown
Now old enough to be our own
True calendars, as puss's ear
Washed o'er's, to tell what change is near :
Then to assuage
The gripings of the chine by age,
I'll call my young
Iülus to sing such a song
I made upon my Julia's breast ;
And of her blush at such a feast.
Then shall he read that flower of mine,
Enclos'd within a crystal shrine ;
A primrose next ;
A piece, then, of a higher text,
For to beget
In me a more transcendent heat
Than that insinuating fire,
Which crept into each aged sire,
When the fair Helen, from her eyes,
Shot forth her loving sorceries ;
At which I'll rear
Mine aged limbs above my chair,
And, hearing it,
Flutter and crow as in a fit
Of fresh concupiscence, and cry :
No lust there's like to poetry.
Thus, frantic, crazy man, God wot,
I'll call to mind things half-forgot,
And oft between
Repeat the times that I have seen !
Thus ripe with tears,
And twisting my Iülus' hairs ;
Doting, I'll weep and say, in truth,
Baucis, these were my sins of youth.
Then next I'Il cause my hopeful lad,
If a wild apple can be had,
To crown the hearth,
Lar thus conspiring with our mirth ;
Then to infuse
Our browner ale into the cruse,
Which sweetly spic'd, we'll first carouse
Unto the genius of the house.
Then the next health to friends of mine,
Loving the brave Burgundian wine,
High sons of pith,
Whose fortunes I have frolicked with ;
Such as could well
Bear up the magic bough and spell ;
And dancing 'bout the mystic thyrse,
Give up the just applause to verse :
To those, and then again to thee,
We'll drink, my Wickes, until we be
Plump as the cherry,
Though not so fresh, yet full as merry
As the cricket,
The untam'd heifer, or the pricket,
Until our tongues shall tell our ears,
We're younger by a score of years.
Thus, till we see the fire less shine
From th' embers than the kitling's eyne,
We'll still sit up,
Sphering about the wassail-cup
To all those times
Which gave me honour for my rhymes.
The coal once spent, we'll then to bed,
Far more than night-bewearied.
Posthumus, the name is taken from Horace, Ode ii.
14, from which the beginning of this lyric is translated.
Repullulate, be born again.
Anchus and rich Tullus, Herrick is again translating
from Horace (Ode iv. 7, 14).
Baiæ, the favourite sea-side resort of the Romans in
the time of Horace.
Pollio, Velius Pollio, who fed his lampreys with
human flesh. Ob., B.C. 15.
Bawdery, dirt (with no moral meaning).
Circular, self-sufficing, the "in se ipso totus teres
atque rotundus" of Horace. Sat. ii. 7, 86.
Iülus, the grandson of Æneas.
Thyrse, bacchic staff.
Pricket, a buck in his second year.
Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 165-171.
Site copyright ©1996-2003 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.