Notes on Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
"Corinna's Going A-Maying"

1st Stanza

Herrick was the son of a goldsmith. After his education, he wanted to work for the king at the court. When that did not happen, he became an Anglican priest. There were not that many options for educated people in that time.

The poems we are studying show how he combines the desire to be a courtier with the reality of the priesthood.

He calls for Corinna to get out of bed and join the other young people and go a-Maying. The Mayday (May 1) celebrations were a release from the normal rules that governed male-female interactions. Like the prom. The young people went out to "bring in the May" by picking flowers.

The "god unshorn" is Apollo, the sun, with Aurora (dawn) bringing him in. Notice the pagan influence. Herrick was no Puritan; they rejected all such celebration as sinful, even outlawing Christmas.

2nd Stanza

She should put on "foliage" (clothes) just as nature has put on its foliage for the spring - such rites are designed to let us influence and participate in the natural world.

She'll be decorated with leaves rather than jewelry.
"leaves will strew gems,"The dew on the leaves~pearls.

The sun will wait for her.

"Few beads" - don't work through the whole rosary.

3rd Stanza

34 fields are like an ark or tabernacle - a place to get in touch with God.

To stay inside and pray would be a sin today. Again, quite a reversal from what the Puritans would have said. It is ironic that he says they must go because it is sinful not to go, since they are more likely to sin in the woods with all those other young people.

4th Stanza

Line 43-48 ~ example of enjambment.

-He tells her that all the youth are out celebrating; some have already become engaged and even chosen a priest to marry them. This is where he brings in his priestly viewpoint. He wants Mayday celebrations to lead to love & marriage, not anonymous sex.

-Line 51, many dresses have gotten grassed stained b/c the girl has been thrown down ( rolling in the grass).

- Keys & locks - a metaphor for sex.

5th Stanza

-Lines 57-62, theme is tempus fugit

-Lines 63-68, momento mori.

Line 66, all that will remain when they do is "a fable, a song, a fleeting shade." (A shade was a ghost, a dead person in the underworld ~ Greek idea). We'll be decaying.

-Lines 69-70, carpe diem ~ you're going to die soon, so have fun while you can. Just don't forget to get married.