Monday, May 13, 2019

Robert Herrick*

Robert Herrick (1591—1674) is the most significant of the poets from a group of dramatists and poets known as “Sons of Ben” — a tribute to the English poet Ben Jonson. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1623 after having graduated with his Masters degree from Cambridge University.

In 1592 his father fell from an upper storey window of their London home, which is suspected to have been a suicide. The desire for a father figure, partially fulfilled by Ben Jonson, shows itself throughout his verse.

Herrick’s only published book of poems is Hesperides: Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine (1648) — a collection of 1400 poems (many of which are just epigraphs). It includes a section entitled “His Noble Numbers,” which are his collected religious poems, and may have originally been intended to appear as a separate book.

In 1994 a memorial to Robert Herrick was unveiled in the new Poets' Corner window in Westminster Abbey.

Litany to the Holy Spirit

In the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the passing bell doth toll,
And the Furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And that number more than true,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the priest his last hath prayed,
And I nod to what is said,
'Cause my speech is now decayed,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When, God knows, I'm tossed about
Either with despair or doubt;
Yet before the glass be out,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tempter me pursueth
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the Judgment is revealed,
And that opened which was sealed,
When to Thee I have appealed,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Herrick: first post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.