Robert Herrick PDF
by Robert Herrick
Herrick wrote so well we hardly notice.A brilliant translator, he often improves on the Latin: "I ask't thee oft, what Poets thou hast read?/
And liks't the best?Still thou reply'st, 'The Dead.'"This is Martial, " Miraris veteres," 8.69. An Anglican minister whose Devon church and house-in-exile still stand just off the main highway (at Dean Prior), he wrote the most famous Cavalier poem on erection, "The Vine." This uses a dream and a gardening metaphor, 'Me thought, her long small legs and thighs / I with my tendrils did surprise," and concludes,"And with the fancy I awook; /And found (Ah me!)
this mortal part of mine / More like a Stock than like a Vine."
To sum his genius, see him fit Latinate, ponderous words into light, short meter, four beat lines: "When as in silks my Julia goes / Then, then (me thinks) how sweetly flows / The liquefation of her clothes."
My personal favorite shows Herrick the clergyman syncretizing classical and Christian gods:"The gods require the thighs / Of beeves for sacrifice /
Which roasted, we the steam / High-towering raise to them, / Who, though they do not eat, / Yet love the smell of meat." Something deeply personal as well as professional here; Herrick combines his asceticism and his sensuality in another syncretism.
Herrick's the best translator ever, of Latin verse into English.His competitiors are of course his master, Ben Jonson, and probably Shakespeare, though of course Will adapted the Latin brilliantly.And then there's Dryden, who surpasses Herrick in the scale of his translations—Vergil, after all.
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