Read in a 1996 Everyman edition which you can still buy for the astonishing price of £1.

Herrick is best known for his “To the Virgins, to make Much of Time: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…”, which is an excellent representation of his oeuvre – light verse that focuses on themes of love, women, and (albeit indirectly) sex. Herrick comes across in these poems as a lover of life, and especially of women. His output was prodigious – he was clearly not one of those authors who agonised over getting every word exactly right. There is a small amount of Chauceresque smut along the way as well (think of the Miller’s Tale). But by far and away my favourite poem from this collection is the gorgeous “Upon Julia’s Clothes”:

Upon Julia’s Clothes

Whenas in silks my Julia goes
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!

I can’t imagine another poet being able to use the word “liquefaction” so stunningly. You could dismiss this as just another piece of dirty-old-man-ery, with a very simple AAABBB structure. And the archaisms – whenas, methinks, – could be off-putting. But push past that and take it for what it is – a glorious hymn to a woman’s beauty and sexual attractiveness. And in that it is astonishing.

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