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Robert Herrick Edit Profile

Clergyman , poet

Robert Herrick was a 17th-century English lyric poet and cleric.


Born on 24 August 1591 in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Julia Stone and Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith.

He belonged to an old Leicestershire family which had settled in London.

The children were brought up by their uncle, Sir William Herrick, one of the richest goldsmiths of the day, to whom in 1607 Robert was bound apprentice.


He had probably been educated at Westminster school, and in 1614 he proceeded to Cambridge; and it was no doubt during his apprenticeship that the young poet was introduced to that circle of wits which he was afterwards to adorn.

He entered the university as fellow-commoner of St John's College, and he remained there until, in 1616, upon taking his degree, he removed to Trinity Hall.


He seems to have been present at the first performance of The Alchemist in 1610, and it was probably about this time that Ben Jonson adopted him as his poetical "son. "

From this date until 1627 we entirely lose sight of him; it has been variously conjectured that he spent these years preparing for the ministry at Cambridge, or in much looser pursuits in London.

In 1629 (September 30) he was presented by the king to the vicarage of Dean Prior, not far from Totnes in Devonshire.

At Dean Prior he resided quietly until 1648, when he was ejected by the Puritans.

Herrick's collected poems were published in London in 1648.

The extensive lyric range brings together, among others, charm-songs and Horatian odes; songs of nature and drinking; marriage hymns and courtly bits to his imaginary mistresses.

He was pleased with the rural and semi-pagan customs that survived in the village, and in some of his most charming verses he has immortalized the morris-dances, wakes and quintains, the Christmas mummers and the Twelfth Night revellings, that diversified the quiet of Dean Prior.

In 1650 a volume of Wit's Recreation contained sixty-two small poems afterwards acknowledged by Herrick in the Hesperides, and one not reprinted until our own day.

These partial appearances make it probable that he visited London from time to time.


  • He is best known for Hesperides, a book of poems. This includes the carpe diem poem "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", with the first line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may".

    His poems were not widely popular at the time they were published.



Thus paganism is an essential element of Herrick's work, and the Roman priest usually obscures the Anglican vicar.


A strong Royalist, Herrick was expelled from his parish by the Long Parliament in 1647.


Anthony Wood says that Herricks's sermons were florid and witty, and that he was " beloved by the neighbouring gentry. "

A very aged woman, one Dorothy King, stated that the poet once threw his sermon at his congregation, cursing them for their inattention.

The same old woman recollected his favourite pig, which he taught to drink out of a tankard.

Quotes from others about the person

  • “The Victorian poet Swinburne described Herrick as "the greatest song writer ever born of English race".”


  • Writers

    His style was strongly influenced by Ben Jonson, by the classical Roman writers, and by the poems of the late Elizabethan era. This must have seemed quite old-fashioned to an audience whose tastes were tuned to the complexities of the metaphysical poets such as John Donne and Andrew Marvell.


Herrick never married, but lived at the vicarage surrounded by a happy family of pets, and tended by an excellent old servant named Prudence Baldwin.

Nicholas Herrick

Julia Stone

Sir William Herrick

Robert Herrick