by Robert Herrick

WHAT'S that we see from far ?  the spring of day
Bloom'd from the east, or fair enjewell'd May
           Blown out of April, or some new
           Star filled with glory to our view,
                           Reaching at heaven,
       To add a nobler planet to the seven ?
           Say, or do we not descry
Some goddess in a cloud of tiffany
                      To move, or rather the
           Emergent Venus from the sea ?

'Tis she !  'tis she ! or else some more divine
Enlightened substance ; mark how from the shrine
           Of holy saints she paces on,
           Treading upon vermilion
                           And amber : spic-
ing the [chaste] air with fumes of Paradise.
           Then come on, come on and yield
A savour like unto a blessed field
                           When the bedabbled morn
           Washes the golden ears of corn.

See where she comes ; and smell how all the street
Breathes vineyards and pomegranates : O how sweet !
           As a fir'd altar is each stone,
           Perspiring pounded cinnamon.
                           The phoenix' nest,
Built up of odours, burneth in her breast.
           Who, therein, would not consume
His soul to ash-heaps in that rich perfume ?
                           Bestroking fate the while
           He burns to embers on the pile.

Hymen, O Hymen !  tread the sacred ground ;
Show thy white feel and head with Marjoram crown'd :
           Mount up thy flames and let thy torch
           Display the bridegroom in the porch,
                           In his desires,
More towering, more disparkling than thy fires :
           Show her how his eyes do turn
And roll about, and in their motions burn
                           Their balls to cinders :  haste,
           Or else to ashes he will waste.

Glide by the banks of virgins, then, and pass
The showers of roses, lucky four-leav'd grass :
           The while the cloud of younglings sing
           And drown ye with a flowery spring ;
                           While some repeat
You praise and bless you, sprinkling you with wheat ;
           While that others do divine,
Bless'd is the bride on whom the sun doth shine ;
                           And thousands gladly wish
           You multiply as doth a fish.

And, beauteous bride, we do confess you're wise
In dealing forth these bashful jealousies :
           In love's name do so ; and a price
           Set on yourself by being nice :
                           But yet take heed ;
What now you seem be not the same indeed,
           And turn apostate : love will,
Part of the way be met or sit stone-still.
                           On, then, and though you slow-
           ly go, yet, howsoever, go.

And now you're entered ; see the coddled cook
Runs from his torrid zone to pry and look
           And bless his dainty mistress : see
           The aged point out, “ This is she
                           Who now must sway
The house (love shield her) with her yea and nay ” :
           And the smirk butler thinks it
           Sin in's napery not to express his wit ;
                           Each striving to devise
           Some gin wherewith to catch your eyes.

To bed, to bed, kind turtles, now, and write
This the short'st day, and this the longest night ;
           But yet too short for you : 'tis we
           Who count this night as long as three,
                           Lying alone,
Telling the clock strike ten, eleven, twelve, one.
           Quickly, quickly then prepare,
And let young men and the bride's-maids share
                           Your garters ; and their joints
           Encircle with the bridegroom's points.

By the bride's eyes, and by the teeming life
Of her green hopes, we charge ye that no strife
           (Farther than gentleness tends) gets place
           Among ye, striving for her lace :
                           O do not fall
Foul in these noble pastimes, lest ye call
           Discord in, and so divide
The youthful bridegroom and the fragrant bride :
                           Which love forfend ; but spoken
           Be't to your praise, no peace was broken.
Strip her of springtime, tender-whimpering maids,
Now autumn's come, when all these flowery aids
           Of her delays must end ;  dispose
           That lady-smock, that pansy, and that rose
                           Neatly apart,
But for prick-madam and for gentle-heart,
           And soft maidens'-blush, the bride
Makes holy these, all others lay aside :
                           Then strip her, or unto her
           Let him come who dares undo her.

And to enchant ye more, see everywhere
About the roof a siren in a sphere,
           As we think, singing to the din
           Of many a warbling cherubin.
                           O mark ye how
The soul of nature melts in numbers : now
           See, a thousand Cupids fly
To light their tapers at the bride's bright eye.
                           To bed, or her they'll tire,
           Were she an element of fire.

And to your more bewitching, see, the proud
Plump bed bear up, and swelling like a cloud,
           Tempting the two too modest ; can
           Ye see it brusle like a swan,
                           And you be cold
To meet it when it woos and seems to fold
           The arms to hug it ?   Throw, throw
Yourselves into the mighty overflow
                           Of that white pride, and drown
           The night with you in floods of down.

The bed is ready, and the maze of love
Looks for the treaders ; everywhere is wove
           Wit and new mystery ; read, and
           Put in practice, to understand
                           And know each wile,
Each hieroglyphic of a kiss or smile ;
           And do it to the full ; reach
High in your own conceit, and some way teach
                           Nature and art one more
           Play than they ever knew before.

If need we must for ceremony's sake,
Bless a sack-posset, luck go with it, take
           The night-charm quickly, you have spells
           And magics for to end, and hells
                           To pass ; but such
And of such torture as no one would grutch
           To live therein for ever :  fry
And consume, and grow again to die
                           And live, and, in that case,
           Love the confusion of the place.

But since it must be done, despatch, and sew
Up in a sheet your bride, and what if so
           It be with rock or walls of brass
           Ye tower her up, as Danae was ;
                           Think you that this
Or hell itself a powerful bulwark is ?
           I tell ye no ; but like a
Bold bolt of thunder he will make his way,
                           And rend the cloud, and throw
           The sheet about like flakes of snow.

All now is hushed in silence : midwife-moon
With all her owl-eyed issue begs a boon,
           Which you must grant ; that's entrance ; with
           Which extract, all we can call pith
                           And quintessence
Of planetary bodies ; so commence
           All fair constellations
Looking upon ye, that two nations,
                           Springing from two such fires
           May blaze the virtue of their sires.

Tiffany, gauze.
More disparkling, more widespreading.
Nice, fastidious.
Coddled, lit. boiled.
Lace, girdle.
Brusle, raise its feathers.
Grutch, grumble.

Nota bene: [chaste] reads "chaft" in Pollard's text.
I have taken the liberty of correcting this
seeming error. —AJ.

Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 139-145.

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