Robert Herrick Questions and Answers

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Is  Robert Herrick's "To Daffodils" a cavalier poem?

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Yes, the poem echoes the same "Carpe Diem" theme as "To the Virgins, To Make Much Use of Time," another Cavalier poem by Robert Herrick:

You haste away so soon;...

...We have short time to stay, as you,

We have as short a spring;

As quick a growth to meet decay,

So says Enotes' editors:

[Herrick] unit[es] the natural cycles of life and death with the rites and ceremonies of Christian worship. Although a very common theme in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century verse, and particularly in Cavalier poetry, the association of Christianity and carpe diem is not a traditional one; it is unique to Herrick and perhaps “natural” given Herrick’s thirty-two year career as vicar of Dean Prior, an appointment originally bestowed by King Charles I.

Also, Herrick's style is similar to that of Ben Jonson, the "father" of the Cavaliers.  Among the similarities are:

  • Secular poet more than divine
  • Classical more than biblical: celebration of worldliness
  • Delight in disorder


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lit24 | Student

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 theme of Robert Herrick's (1591-1674)  "Divination by a Daffodil" is that all human life like everything else in Nature is temporary and will end in death.

The poet looks at a daffodil which has withered - hanging down his head towards me- and he realizes that the same fate awaits him sooner or later. No matter how beautiful the daffodil may be, at the end of the day it will wither and die. Similarly, Robert Herrick realizes that no matter how much he may achieve during his life time he will also have to die like the daffodil.

The sight of the withered daffodil, 'divines' or foretells his death and his burial.