ROBERT HERRICK: The Life of a Poet 1591-1674 by George Walton Scott

ROBERT HERRICK: The Life of a Poet 1591-1674

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A competent and pleasant overview of the 17th century pastoral poet who bid the Virgins to Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may -- his life, his influences, his works and a history of critical appraisal over three centuries. Like his drinking mate Ben Jonson, Robert Herrick had some Greek and more Latin; his most enduring theme of the enjoyment of the fleeting moment and the virtues of living well is a convention derived from the poetry of Horace, Propertius, Ovid, Catullus and Anacreon. At 34, Herrick was ranked along with Jonson as a major poet for the age based on his ayres that had been set to music and a number of works circulating in manuscript; but after his retirement to a Devonshire vicarage, his fame declined as Milton, who was seventeen years younger, gained hegemony over the London literary scene. His only book was published in London after he was removed from his parsonage by the Puritans because of his Royalist leanings, and scholarship indicates that the first edition was still in print some twenty years later. Even in the 20th century, opinion has remained divided between critics like F.R. Leavis who dismiss Herrick's work as trivial and the more intuitive feelings of no less an authority than T.S. Eliot who muses that ""there is something more in the whole than in the parts."" Scott's assessment is just and unpolemical. It is the lyrics themselves that are the best evidence that ""charming"" and ""pagan"" as they may be, Herrick's best verse affords as much sheer sensual delight as any of Shakespeare's excellent songs.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1974
Publisher: St. Martin's Press