Mr. Robert Herrick: His Farewell Unto Poetry.

A poem by Robert Herrick

I have beheld two lovers in a night
Hatched o'er with moonshine from their stolen delight
(When this to that, and that to this, had given
A kiss to such a jewel of the heaven,
Or while that each from other's breath did drink
Health to the rose, the violet, or pink),
Call'd on the sudden by the jealous mother,
Some stricter mistress or suspicious other,
Urging divorcement (worse than death to these)
By the soon jingling of some sleepy keys,
Part with a hasty kiss; and in that show
How stay they would, yet forced they are to go.
Even such are we, and in our parting do
No otherwise than as those former two
Natures like ours, we who have spent our time
Both from the morning to the evening chime.
Nay, till the bellman of the night had tolled
Past noon of night, yet wear the hours not old
Nor dulled with iron sleep, but have outworn
The fresh and fairest nourish of the morn
With flame and rapture; drinking to the odd
Number of nine which makes us full with God,
And in that mystic frenzy we have hurled,
As with a tempest, nature through the world,
And in a whirlwind twirl'd her home, aghast
At that which in her ecstasy had past;
Thus crowned with rosebuds, sack, thou mad'st me fly
Like fire-drakes, yet didst me no harm thereby.
O thou almighty nature, who didst give
True heat wherewith humanity doth live
Beyond its stinted circle, giving food,
White fame and resurrection to the good;
Shoring them up 'bove ruin till the doom,
The general April of the world doth come
That makes all equal. Many thousands should,
Were't not for thee, have crumbled into mould,
And with their serecloths rotted, not to show
Whether the world such spirits had or no,
Whereas by thee those and a million since,
Nor fate, nor envy, can their fames convince.
Homer, Mus├Žus, Ovid, Maro, more
Of those godful prophets long before
Held their eternal fires, and ours of late
(Thy mercy helping) shall resist strong fate,
Nor stoop to the centre, but survive as long
As fame or rumour hath or trump or tongue;
But unto me be only hoarse, since now
(Heaven and my soul bear record of my vow)
I my desires screw from thee, and direct
Them and my thoughts to that sublim'd respect
And conscience unto priesthood; 'tis not need
(The scarecrow unto mankind) that doth breed
Wiser conclusions in me, since I know
I've more to bear my charge than way to go,
Or had I not, I'd stop the spreading itch
Of craving more, so in conceit be rich;
But 'tis the God of Nature who intends
And shapes my function for more glorious ends.
Kiss, so depart, yet stay a while to see
The lines of sorrow that lie drawn in me
In speech, in picture; no otherwise than when,
Judgment and death denounced 'gainst guilty men,
Each takes a weeping farewell, racked in mind
With joys before and pleasures left behind;
Shaking the head, whilst each to each doth mourn,
With thought they go whence they must ne'er return.
So with like looks, as once the ministrel
Cast, leading his Eurydice through hell,
I strike thy love, and greedily pursue
Thee with mine eyes or in or out of view.
So looked the Grecian orator when sent
From's native country into banishment,
Throwing his eyeballs backward to survey
The smoke of his beloved Attica;
So Tully looked when from the breasts of Rome
The sad soul went, not with his love, but doom,
Shooting his eyedarts 'gainst it to surprise
It, or to draw the city to his eyes.
Such is my parting with thee, and to prove
There was not varnish only in my love,
But substance, lo! receive this pearly tear
Frozen with grief and place it in thine ear.
Then part in name of peace, and softly on
With numerous feet to hoofy Helicon;
And when thou art upon that forked hill
Amongst the thrice three sacred virgins, fill
A full-brimm'd bowl of fury and of rage,
And quaff it to the prophets of our age;
When drunk with rapture curse the blind and lame,
Base ballad-mongers who usurp thy name
And foul thy altar; charm some into frogs,
Some to be rats, and others to be hogs;
Into the loathsom'st shapes thou canst devise
To make fools hate them, only by disguise;
Thus with a kiss of warmth and love I part
Not so, but that some relic in my heart
Shall stand for ever, though I do address
Chiefly myself to what I must profess.
Know yet, rare soul, when my diviner muse
Shall want a handmaid (as she oft will use),
Be ready, thou for me, to wait upon her,
Though as a servant, yet a maid of honour.
The crown of duty is our duty: well
Doing's the fruit of doing well. Farewell.

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