Saturday, August 20, 2011

Robert Herrick

‘Sir Walter Scott has given us in his Fortunes of Nigel a delightful picture of the household of Master George Heriot, " jingling Geordie," who shared with Sir William Herrick the honour of being jeweller to his Majesty; by means of it we are able to realize something of the life which Robert Herrick was now leading beneath his uncle's roof in Cheapside. The dignity of Sir William's station would perhaps excuse the apprentice the duty of standing before the shop-door and accosting passers-by with the familiar cry, "What d'ye lack, Sir? What d'ye lack, Madam? Rings, bracelets, carcanets, what d'ye lack?" His time would rather be spent within the house, practising the delicate craft of the jeweller and lapidary which had brought the honour of knighthood to his uncle William. At sunset his labours for the day were over, for a strict injunction of the wardens of the Goldsmiths' Company forbade buying and selling by candle-light; he was accordingly free to wander forth into the streets and visit his brothers, Thomas and Nicholas, or join with other apprentices in some lighthearted mirth…’

The text above comes from Frederic Moorman’s “Robert Herrick”.  Herrick, the English vicar and poet, was born, according to Chambers’ Book of Days, on August 20, 1591.  To Moorman’s point, is text involving George Heriot from “Fortunes of Nigel”:

‘…Such was the monarch, who, saluting Heriot by the name of Jingling
Geordie, (for it was his well-known custom to give nicknames to all
those with whom he was on terms of familiarity,) inquired what new
clatter-traps he had brought with him, to cheat his lawful and native
Prince out of his siller.

"God forbid, my liege," said the citizen, "that I should have any such
disloyal purpose. I did but bring a piece of plate to show to your
most gracious Majesty, which, both for the subject and for the
workmanship, I were loath to put into the hands of any subject until I
knew your Majesty's pleasure anent it."…’

Herrick’s best known work is included in his “Hesperides”, which was published in 1648:

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

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