Robert Herrick


The Speakers, Mirtillo, Amintas and Amarillis.

     Amin.  Good-day, Mirtillo.    Mirt.   And to you no less,
And all fair signs lead on our shepherdess.
     Amar.  With all white luck to you.    Mirt.   But say,
                  what news
Stirs in our sheep-walk ?    Amin.   None, save that my ewes,
My wethers, lambs, and wanton kids are well,
Smooth, fair and fat ! none better I can tell :
Or that this day Menalchas keeps a feast
For his sheep-shearers.    Mirt.   True, these are the least ;
But, dear Amintas and sweet Amarillis,
Rest but a while here, by this bank of lilies,
And lend a gentle ear to one report
The country has.    Amin.   From whence ?    Amar.   From
                  whence ?    Mirt.   The Court.
Three days before the shutting in of May
(With whitest wool be ever crown'd that day !)
To all our joy a sweet-fac'd child was born,
More tender than the childhood of the morn.
     Chor.  Pan pipe to him, and bleats of lambs and sheep,
Let lullaby the pretty prince asleep !
     Mirt.   And that his birth should be more singular
At noon of day was seen a silver star,
Bright as the wise men's torch, which guided them
To God's sweet babe, when born at Bethlehem ;
While golden angels (some have told to me)
Sung out his birth with heavenly minstrelsy.
     Amin.  O rare ! But is't a trespass if we three
Should wend along his babyship to see ?
     Mirt.   Not so, not so.
     Chor.  But if it chance to prove
At most a fault, 'tis but a fault of love.
     Amar.  But, dear Mirtillo, I have heard it told
Those learned men brought incense, myrrh and gold
From countries far, with store of spices sweet,
And laid them down for offerings at his feet.
     Mirt.   'Tis true, indeed ; and each of us will bring
Unto our smiling and our blooming king
A neat, though not so great an offering.
     Amar.  A garland for my gift shall be
Of flowers ne'er suck'd by th' thieving bee ;
And all most sweet ; yet all less sweet than he.
     Amin.  And I will bear, along with you,
Leaves dropping down the honeyed dew,
With oaten pipes as sweet as new.
     Mirt.   And I a sheep-hook will bestow,
To have his little kingship know,
As he is prince, he's shepherd too.
     Chor.  Come, let's away, and quickly let's be dress'd,
And quickly give—the swiftest grace is best.
And when before him we have laid our treasures,
We'll bless the babe, then back to country pleasures.

White, favorable.

[ Note: p.280-281:

    213.  And all most sweet, yet all less sweet than he.
It  is   characteristic  of   Herrick   that  in   his   Noble
Numbers   ( “ The   New-Year's   Gift ” )    he   repeats
this line, applying it to Christ.
    Oaten pipes .  .  .  Sheep-hooks.  The idea of  these
homely   gifts  is   taken   from   the  offerings  of   the
shepherds  and   their  boys  in  the   Miracle  Plays :
“ Thus  in  the  first  Towneley  Play   the  gifts  are  a
' lyttl   spruse   cofer,'   a  ball  and  a  bottle ;    in   the
York,  a  brooch  with a  tin  bell,  two  cob  nuts  on a
riband, and a  horn spoon  that  will  hold  forty  peas.
In  the   Chester   Play   double   gifts  are  offered :  a
bottle,  hood,  and  shepherd's  pipe,   by  the  boys ;
and  a  bell,  spoon,  and  cup,  by  the  shepherds.”
(English Miracle Plays, ed. Pollard.)
    Know  thy  when.    So  in  The  Star-song   Herrick
sings:  “ Thou  canst  clear all  doubts  and  manifest
the where”. ]

Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 105-106; 280-281.

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