from “Corinna’s Gone A-Maying”
by Robert Herrick
Get up! get up for shame! The blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air:
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree!
For the final installment of the Bedtime Series, the other side of the mattress. Time to get up and face the day, because poet Robert Herrick has a lot of beauty to lay before us—
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air
But first, a word in support of us night-owls. Shame has been heaped upon us since childhood. Unfair that early risers aren’t yelled at by their mothers,
Stay up! stay up, for shame!
Shame on you, going to bed before ten!
No, the early bird, worm in beak, gets accolades for industry. And just because we night-owls miss out on sunrises, everyone assumes we’re lazy.
That has nothing to do with “Corinna’s Gone A-Maying,” which is a one of those carpe diem poems where men nag women to have sex with them. Later in the poem (full text below), after much gorgeous language and clever argument, Herrick pulls out the stops—
Come, let us goe, while we are in our prime;
And take the harmlesse follie of the time.
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short; and our dayes run
As fast away as do’s the Sunne
Tricky little bastard, isn’t he. Get out of bed, he says to poor sleepy Corinna, so we can go back to bed.
I left the poem fragment early one morning (early for me that is, round about nine-thirty) at the entrance to a kids’ summer camp. I was thinking of the slug-a-beds who feel as poet Charles Simic does (from the poem “Summer Morning”)—
I love to stay in bed
sentiments which if expressed would drive a camp counselor to whip off the covers and shake a body; and if said counselor happened to have encountered the Corinna poem fragment, to shout the opening lines.
But this is a case of my imagination overtaking good judgment. This poem-elfing was a flop. It’s always a terrible idea to post a poem fragment instead of a poem in its entirety—lines taken out of context can be misconstrued and misused as we see here—but that’s the least of it. Putting a poem about sex at a kids’ camp is plain creepy. What can I say. At least the camp is closed for COVID-19 and only a stray walker will encounter Herrick’s racy little poem.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was born in London, the seventh child of a goldsmith. When he was a baby his father fell out of a window, probably intentionally, and died. At age 16 he apprenticed with an uncle to follow in his father’s profession. Later he went to Cambridge, became a clergyman at country vicarage, and served for many years until he was removed from his post because of his Royalist sympathies. With the ascension of Charles II to the throne fifteen years later, Herrick was re-instated.
In 1648 he published his one and only collection of verse, Hesperides. It was a massive volume with over 1,000 poems.
Herrick was a lifelong bachelor. The women to whom he addressed his love poems, Corrina among them, are thought to be fictional. He died at age 83.