21 March 2018

Spring Violets and a Perfect Poem

In this little urn is laid
Prudence Baldwin, once my maid,
From whose happy spark here let
Spring the purple violet.

 - "Upon Prue, His Maid" by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), from The Norton Anthology of Poetry: Shorter Edition, ed. Arthur M. Eastman, New York, W.W. Norton: 1970.

Like the wood violets (and the daffodils) of March, this perfect little poem moves beyond the dichotomy of life and death to the transcendent vision of regeneration.

A child of Cheapside and one of seven children, Robert Herrick's father died when the boy was only a year old.  Apprenticed to an uncle at sixteen, Herrick went on to graduate from Cambridge University in 1617 and was ordained as a minister of the Church of England in 1623.  Ousted from his vicarage in 1647 during the English Civil War, he campaigned for his own restoration after Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.  Herrick never married.  Hesperides, published in 1648, is a collection of some 1,200 of Herrick's lyric poems.

Image: Jean-Francois Millet - Narcisses et violettes (Narcissus and Violets), 1867, Kunsthalle, Hamburg.


Tania said...

Thanks for flowers and poem, Jane. We are waiting for a very spring.

Jane said...

You are welcome, Tania. The birds come back first and then the flowers begin to bloom.

Mary in Chicago said...

What a charming poem and lovely picture!

Jane said...

Welcome, Mary from Chicago. In college I read the book "The Style of the Short Poem" and Herrick's poem, which is only short in length but not in meaning. stuck with me. When I was thinking about an image to illustrate it I liked Millet's for the way he has one narcissus leaning forward, seemingly pointing our attention to the violets. I'm happy you enjoyed the combination.