Old Poem Saturday – The Amber Bead – Herrick

TheAmberBeadRobert Herrick was the youngest child of a goldsmith and was expected to follow suit, but he rebelled and left his apprenticeship early to study at Saint John’s College, Cambridge and eventually became a devoted admirer of the famous poet Ben Jonson. Herrick’s poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” (of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…” fame), is now routinely included in English Literature/Poetry curricula and anthologies, so it is surprising to learn that his poetry was not at all popular in his own time and his singular large volume of poetry made not a single literary ripple upon publication! Photograph and composition by me.

7 comments

    1. I have only recently become acquainted with Ben Jonson’s poetry and realizing the effect he had on a whole generation of poets and writers. There was a contemporary fan club – essentially – called the “Son’s of Ben” whose members all admired and studied Ben Jonson’s work. Herrick was apparently an avid member! It has been a million years since my last English class in college, and I am now really only beginning to understand how much these courses omit (sometimes by necessity for time, etc). One of the joys for me of this blog is the impetus to explore on my own!

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      1. Yes, I have found the same. I think one reason I remember Ben J so un-fondly was my dislike of the teacher and the fact that the class was something I had to take to fill my schedule. I may need to revisit. I do remember the influence Jonson had on his contemporaries – in fact that was the reason a whole course was devoted to him.

        Younger days. Wiser now. I hope! I like your blog for just the reason you said – exploring topics that I would not wander into otherwise. Thank you.

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  1. Even though I studied English literature in college, I only “discovered” more of Herrick’s works a few years ago, after singing a Herrick text in choir…love this, thank you!

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    1. Thank you! I remember studying “To the Virgins, to make much of time” in college, but I never realized what an enormous body of work Herrick had written. Thank you for sharing the Christmas carol, it’s beautiful. It would be amazing to hear it sung!

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