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What is the meaning or interpretation of the poem "Delight in Disorder" by Robert Herrick?

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ellimaramos | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:00 PM via web

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What is the meaning or interpretation of the poem "Delight in Disorder" by Robert Herrick?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:28 PM (Answer #1)

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First, every reader's interpretation can be different.

Here's mine: In describing the lady's dress, I think Herrick is using metaphor and metonymy. This is when the concept being described (clothes) actually means something it is associated with (the lady herself who's wearing those clothes). The speaker sees a "wild civility" in a "careless shoe-string tie," implying that her careless attire might reflect a "carefree" spirit. A "sweet disorder" "kindles" wantonness" and the speaker concludes that this disorder "bewitches" him more than when "art is too precise in every part." I interpret all this to mean that the "art" is flirtatious behavior and the disorder is more bewitching or seductive because it reveals a more carefree attitude and of course this is a classic play on sexual flirtation. The looseness of the clothes could refer to the promiscuity of the lady, or that she is confident or feels free to "let her hair down" (or shoelaces). Or, it could mean that the lady is just laid back (figuratively speaking) and that a woman whose attire is precise, may be hiding her own promiscuity.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:31 PM (Answer #2)

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The most apparent meaning of Delight in Disorder is that Robert Herrick is singing the praises of a fair lady whose clothing isn't on quite rightly. Her ribbons are disordered on her cuff; her bodice stomacher (an uncomfortable stiff garment that preceded stays and corsets) has embroidery lace that is a bit askew; her scarf is imperfectly placed. Herrick's is enjoying the sight of feminine imperfection in a lady's failures in having assembled herself.

On a symbolic level, Herrick is admiring the idea that a lady may also be so disarrayed in her deportment so as to be approachable and open to social interchanges that are not as precise as society demands. In other words, if her clothes are approaching imperfection--ever so slightly--perhaps her social restraints are also approaching imperfection--even if ever so slightly as well.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted January 29, 2010 at 4:05 PM (Answer #3)

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In the poem 'Delight in Disorder' by Robert Herrick, the poet describes the disadvantages of looking too perfect in one's presentation of clothing, outfit and personal grooming. He is saying that actually, it is more attractive and honest to be oneself - that it is 'sweeter' to see through superficial layers to a person's real personality. However, he seems to be talking specifically about women here - there is reference to petticoats and ribbons. This is interesting because although born in London Herrick was sent far away to the middle of nowhere (Devon!) to minister his country parish. We have no record of any relationships he had with women (though he had a housekeeper) although his writing about them was very sensuous.

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