by Robert Herrick

THRICE, and above, bless'd, my soul's half, art thou
       In thy both last and better vow :
Could'st leave the city, for exchange, to see
       The country's sweet simplicity
And it to know and practise, with intent
       To grow the sooner innocent
By studying to know virtue, and to aim
       More at her nature than her name.
The last is but the least ; the first doth tell
       Ways less to live than to live well
And both are known to thee, who now can'st live
       Led by the conscience ; to give
Justice to soon-pleased nature ; and to show
       Wisdom and she together go
And keep ond centre : this with that conspires
       To teach man to confine desires
And know that riches have their proper stint
       In the contented mind, not mint :
And can'st instruct that those who have the itch
       Of craving more are never rich.
These things thou know'st to th' height, and dost prevent
       That plague ; because thou art content
With that heav'n gave thee with a wary hand,
       More blessed in thy brass than land,
To keep cheap nature even and upright ;
       To cool, not cocker appetite.
Thus thou canst tearcely live to satisfy
       The belly chiefly, not the eye ;
Keeping the harking stomach wisely quiet,
       Less with a neat than needful diet.
But that which most makes sweet thy country life
       Is the fruition of a wife :
Whom, stars consenting with thy fate, thou hast
       Got not so beautiful as chaste :
By whose warm side thou dost securely sleep,
       While love the sentinel doth keep,
With those deeds done by day, which ne'er affright
       Thy silken slumbers in the night.
Nor has the darkness power to usher in
       Fear to those sheets that know no sin ;
But still thy wife, by chaste intentions led,
       Gives thee each night a maidenhead.
The damask'd meadows and the pebbly streams
       Sweeten and make soft your dreams :
The purling springs, groves, birds, and well-weav'd bowers,
       With fields enamelled with flowers,
Present their shapes ; while fantasy discloses
       Millions of lilies mix'd with roses.
Then dream ye hear the lamb by many a bleat
       Woo'd to come suck the milky teat :
While Faunus in the vision comes to keep
       From rav'ning wolves the fleecy sheep.
With thousand such enchanting dreams, that meet
       To make sleep not so sound as sweet :
Nor can these figures so thy rest endear
       As not to rise when Chanticlere
Warns the last watch ; but with the dawn dost rise
       To work, but first to sacrifice ;
Making thy peace with heav'n, for some late fault,
       With holy-meal and spirting-salt.
Which done, thy painful thumb this sentence tells us,
       Jove for our labour all things sells us.
Nor are thy daily and devout affairs
       Attended with those desp'rate cares
Th' industrious merchant has ; who, for to find
       Gold, runneth to the Western Inde,
And back again, tortured with fears, doth fly,
       Untaught to suffer poverty.
But thou at home, bless'd with securest ease,
       Sitt'st, and believ'st that there be seas
And watery dangers ; while thy whiter hap
       But sees these things within thy map.
And viewing them with a more safe survey
       Mak'st easy fear unto thee say,—
"A heart thrice wall'd with oak and brass that man
       Had, first durst plough the ocean
But thou at home, without or tide or gale,
       Can'st in thy map securely sail :
Seeing those painted countries, and so guess
       By those fine shades their substances :
And, from thy compass taking small advice,
       Buy'st travel at the lowest price.
Nor are thine ears so deaf but thou canst hear,
       Far more with wonder than with fear,
Fame tell of states, of countries, courts, and kings,
       And believe there be such things :
When of these truths thy happier knowledge lies
       More in thine ears than in thine eyes.
And when thou hear'st by that too true report
       Vice rules the most or all at court,
Thy pious wishes are, though thou not there,
       Virtue had, and mov'd her sphere.
But thou liv'st fearless ; and thy face ne'er shows
       Fortune when she comes or goes,
But with thy equal thoughts prepared dost stand,
       To take her by the either hand ;
Nor car'st which comes the first, the foul or fair :
       A wise man ev'ry way lies square,
And, like a surly oak with storms perplex'd,
       Grows still the stronger, strongly vex'd.
Be so, bold spirit ; stand centre-like, unmov'd ;
       And be not only thought, but prov'd
To be what I report thee ; and inure
       Thyself ; if want comes to endure :
And so thou dost, for thy desires are
       Confin'd to live with private lar :
Not curious whether appetite be fed
       Or with the first or second bread,
Who keep'st no proud mouth for delicious cates :
       Hunger makes coarse meats delicates.
Canst, and unurg'd, forsake that larded fare,
       Which art, not nature, makes so rare,
To taste boil'd nettles, colworts, beets, and eat
       These and sour herbs as dainty meat,
While soft opinion makes thy genius say,
       Content makes all ambrosia.
Nor is it that thou keep'st this stricter size
       So much for want as exercise :
To numb the sense of dearth, which should sin haste it,
       Thou might'st but only see't, not taste it.
Yet can thy humble roof maintain a choir
       Of singing crickets by the fire :
And the brisk mouse may feast herself with crumbs
       Till that the green-eyed kitten comes,
Then to her cabin blest she can escape
       The sudden danger of a rape :
And thus thy little well-kept stock doth prove
       Wealth cannot make a life, but love.
Nor art thou so close-handed but canst spend,
       Counsel concurring with the end,
As well as spare, still conning o'er this theme,
       To shun the first and last extreme.
Ordaining that thy small stock find no breach,
       Or to exceed thy tether's reach
But to live round, and close, and wisely true
       To thine own self ; and known to few.
Thus let thy rural sanctuary be
       Elizium to thy wife and thee ;
There to disport yourselves with golden measure :
       For seldom use commends the pleasure.
Live, and live blest, thrice happy pair ; let breath,
       But lost to one, be the other's death.
And as there is one love, one faith, one troth,
       Be so one death, one grave to both.
Till when, in such assurance live ye may,
       Nor fear or wish your dying day.

Brass, money.
Cocker, pamper.
Tearcely, tersely, purely.
Neat, dainty.
Spirting-salt, the "saliente mica" of Horace.
Lar, the "closet-gods," or gods of the house.
Colworts, cabbages.
Size or assize, a fixed allowance of food, a ration.

Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 40-45.

Backto Works of Robert Herrick

Created by Anniina Jokinen on October 20, 1998.
Copyright ©1998 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Violators will be prosecuted.