Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
Corinna’s Maying
By Robert Herrick (1591–1674)
GET up, get up for shame! The blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn. 1
    See how Aurora throws her fair
    Fresh-quilted colours through the air: 2
    Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see        5
    The dew-bespangled herb and tree!
Each flower has wept and bow’d toward the east,
Above an hour since, yet you not drest;
    Nay! not so much as out of bed?
    When all the birds have matins said,        10
    And sung their thankful hymns, ’tis sin,
    Nay, profanation, to keep in,
Whenas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.
Rise, and put on your foliage, and be seen        15
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
    And sweet as Flora. Take no care
    For jewels for your gown or hair:
    Fear not; the leaves will strew
    Gems in abundance upon you:        20
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some Orient pearls unwept.
    Come, and receive them while the light
    Hangs on the dew-locks of the night,
    And Titan on the eastern hill        25
    Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads 3 are best when once we go a-Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park,        30
    Made green and trimm’d with trees! see how
    Devotion gives each house a bough 4
    Or branch! each porch, each door, ere this,
    An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove,        35
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
    Can such delights be in the street
    And open fields, and we not see ’t?
    Come, we’ll abroad: and let’s obey
    The proclamation made for May,        40
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.
There’s not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up and gone to bring in May.
    A deal of youth, ere this, is come        45
    Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
    Some have dispatch’d their cakes and cream,
    Before that we have left to dream:
And some have wept and woo’d, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:        50
    Many a green-gown has been given,
    Many a kiss, both odd and even:
    Many a glance, too, has been sent
    From out the eye, love’s firmament:
Many a jest told of the keys betraying        55
This night, and locks pick’d: yet we’re not a-Maying.
Come, let us go, while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time!
    We shall grow old apace, and die
    Before we know our liberty.        60
    Our life is short, and our days run
    As fast away as does the sun.
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain,
Once lost, can ne’er be found again,
    So when or you or I are made        65
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
    All love, all liking, all delight
    Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.        70
Note 1. The god unshorn: Apollo. [back]
Note 2. Fresh-quilted colours through the air: Dr. Grosart points out the similarity of this figure with Milton’s “tissued clouds” in the Nativity, line 146. [back]
Note 3. Beads: prayers. [back]
Note 4. “Devotion gives each house a bough,” etc. It is an ancient custom in Devon and Cornwall to deck the porches of houses with boughs of sycamore on a May-day. For a full account of the May-day customs alluded to in this poem see Brand’s Popular Antiquities, vol. i., p. 212. The last stanza is in the same spirit with Catullus’ Fifth Carmen. [back]

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