What is the summary of Robert Herrick's  "Delight In Disorder?"

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Robert Herrick (1591-1674)  is classified as a 'Cavalier Poet,' that is, he belonged to a group of poets who supported King Charles I during the Civil War. During the Civil War on account of  his support to  the Royalist cause he fell out of favour with the government, but after King Charles II was restored to the throne the King honored him and made him the Vicar at Dean Prior at Devonshire.

During his student days at Cambridge and as a budding poet he was a great admirer of the Jacobean dramatist and lyricist Ben Jonson (1572-1637) and was a member of the group of admirers of Ben Jonson  called the Sons of Ben. At the same time he was a contemporary of the Metaphysical Poets like George Herbert (1593–1633).

The lyric "Delight in Disorder" is from his collection of lyrics "Hesperides" published in 1648.  The gist of the poem is that the poet narrator finds a woman who has dressed carelessly more attractive and seductive than a woman who has dressed very correctly. The following adjectives foreground the lack of attention by the woman to the various articles of her dress: "disorder,"  "distraction,"  "erring,"  "neglectful,"  "confusedly," "tempestuous"  and "careless." She has worn every article of her dress carelessly, however it is this complete lack of attention to her dress which makes her look sexy ["wantonness"]  and "bewitches" him all the more.

What is more important is to realize how the three influences-Cavalier poetry, Metaphysical poetry and Ben Jonson's lyricism-are amalgamated in this exquisite lyric "Delight in Disorder." Cavalier poetry is secular and its language and imagery are simple and direct unlike Metaphysical poetry which is characterized by complicated imagery which renders the poem ambiguous. The ambiguity in this poem is, whether Herrick is describing a woman who has dressed carelessly or a painting of a woman who has dressed carelessly - "than when art/Is too precise in every part."  A lyric is  an expression of the poet's own feelings as a response to an external stimulus and Ben Jonson's lyrical influence can best be seen in the last three  lines of the poem:

"I see a wild civility;--
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part."

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