Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Corinna's Going a-Maying

Happy May Day!

I recently started reading Caroline Kennedy's poetry anthology She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems and read this one last night and thought it would make a perfect May Day post.

Corinna's Going a-Maying

by Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674

 Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn 
    Upon her wings presents the god unshorn. 
    See how Aurora throws her fair 
    Fresh-quilted colours through the air: 
    Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see       
    The dew bespangling herb and tree! 
Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the east 
Above an hour since, yet you not drest; 
    Nay! not so much as out of bed? 
    When all the birds have matins said 
    And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin, 
    Nay, profanation, to keep in, 
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day 
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May. 

Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen 
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green, 
    And sweet as Flora. Take no care 
    For jewels for your gown or hair: 
    Fear not; the leaves will strew 
    Gems in abundance upon you: 
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept, 
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept. 
    Come, and receive them while the light 
    Hangs on the dew-locks of the night: 
    And Titan on the eastern hill 
    Retires himself, or else stands still 
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying: 
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying. 

Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark 
How each field turns a street, each street a park, 
    Made green and trimm'd with trees! see how 
    Devotion gives each house a bough 
    Or branch! each porch, each door, ere this, 
    An ark, a tabernacle is, 
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove, 
As if here were those cooler shades of love. 
    Can such delights be in the street 
    And open fields, and we not see 't? 
    Come, we'll abroad: and let 's obey 
    The proclamation made for May, 
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying; 
But, my Corinna, come, let 's go a-Maying. 

There 's not a budding boy or girl this day 
But is got up and gone to bring in May. 
    A deal of youth ere this is come 
    Back, and with white-thorn laden home. 
    Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream, 
    Before that we have left to dream: 
And some have wept and woo'd, and plighted troth, 
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
    Many a green-gown has been given, 
    Many a kiss, both odd and even: 
    Many a glance, too, has been sent 
    From out the eye, love's firmament: 
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd: yet we're not a-Maying! 

Come, let us go, while we are in our prime, 
And take the harmless folly of the time! 
    We shall grow old apace, and die 
    Before we know our liberty.
    Our life is short, and our days run 
    As fast away as does the sun. 
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain, 
Once lost, can ne'er be found again, 
    So when or you or I are made
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade, 
    All love, all liking, all delight 
    Lies drown'd with us in endless night. 
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying, 
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.


  1. Happy Mayday. Thanks for posting the verse. I like it. The atmosphere that it exudes makes it particularly appealing. I am also very happy that spring is here.

  2. Happy May Day and thanks for posting that poem. She Walks in Beauty is one of the few poetry anthologies on my shelf.

  3. Perfect poem for Beltane/May Day! Love the pics too.