Robert Herrick – reader be warned!

Herrick
Robert Herrick

The great 17th century lyric poet, Robert Herrick (1591–1674), an admirer of the even greater British poet, Ben Jonson, is best known for his first book of poems, Hesperides, which was published in 1647. This includes the famous poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” with its opening lines:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

As was the custom of those days, Hesperides opens with a number of short poems in the form of dedications to noble sponsors and warnings to the readers.

One of the more direct cautions reads as follows:

Who with these leaves shall wipe (at need)
The place where swelling Piles do breed:
May every Ill that bites or smarts
Perplexe him in his hinder parts.

Say no more!


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