Robert Herrick – (Corinna’s Going A-Maying)

[Village Scene With Dance Around the Maypole – Pieter Bruegel, the Elder  (1634)]

AG: And “Corinna’s Gone A-Maying” (page two seventy-five) – It’s real pretty for.. as a Mayday thing. It’s a beautiful poem and I don’t want to go through it but..like the Shakespeare poem (of Ben Jonson) I think you ought to read it

Student: She’s Going-A-Maying

AG: What?

Student; Going-A-Maying

AG: Gone-A-Maying. She’s going out maying, she’s going out to… well, he describes it – getting up in the morning and going out and getting the dew on her hair and gathering hawthorne, white hawthorne, to put around the house (actually, it’s pretty) Does anybody want to try reading it ? Does anybody know this poem? Has anybody read it? Has anyone here read it before? – Mark (sic), would you like to try? – Let’s, stanza-to-stanza, jump it around

Student (1) : “Corinna’s Going A-Maying” – “Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne/Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.”

AG: Apollo

Student (1): “See how Aurora throwes her faire…”

AG: Dawn – Just read it!

Student (1) : “…Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:/ See how Aurora throwes her faire../ Get up, sweet-Slug-a-bed, and see/ The Dew-bespangling Herbe and Tree./Each Flower has wept, and bow’d toward the East,/ Above an houre since; yet you not drest,/Nay! not so much as out of bed?/ When all the Birds have Mattens seyd…”

AG: “Mattens”- morning prayer – mattins – matins – Shakespeare uses that word too

Student (1): ” When all the Birds have Mattens seyd/And sung their thankful Hymnes: ’tis sin,/Nay, profanation to keep in,/ When as a thousand Virgins on this day,/Spring, sooner than the Lark, to fetch in May…”

AG : And in the footnote you’ve got there – “boughs of white hawthorne traditionally gathered to decorate the streets and houses on Mayday. Actually, we should do this because we’re approaching that, approaching May day. It’s a great apostrophe to the Springtime and May day and tells everybody to make it while they’re alive (which seems to be a major theme, a major theme, in Herrick, a really pretty theme, and begins to…. He’s a classic of that – “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may..” – he’s the man who said that originally – in the next poem, in fact – “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time“) –

So this theme, at great length, in this poem, is a classic theme, and it’s also a theme that goes from millenia to millenia like a nox est perpetua una dormienda, night is a perpetual sleep (that’s a line from Horace, I think, Horace – [Editorial note, it’s actually from Catullus – Ode 5, line six ] -.which, I think, many many English poets of this time translated  and repeated, as he does later on in this poem. So… ready

Student (2): “Rise; and put on your Foliage, and be seene /To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and greene; /And sweet as Flora. Take no care/For Jewels for your Gowne, or Haire:/ Feare not; the leaves will strew/Gemms in abundance upon you.”

AG: You read with almost the same tone each time . Each syllable is exactly the same note, why don’t you vary your notes a bit, sing it a little?.

Student (2): – [continues] – “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 himselfe, or else stands still/Till you come forth. Wash, dresse, be briefe in praying…”

AG: (So,) if you were talking to your wife? – how would you say, “wash, dress and be brief in praying”?

Student (2); Wash! dress!

AG: Aw, come on, make-believe this is your wife you’re talking to. Come on, it’s your wife you’re talking to,not…

Student: Wash, dress..

AG: Yeah! – there you go! – right..,

Student: “Few Beads are best, when once we goe a Maying…”.

AG: “Few beads” – few prayers – what is it – a few prayers. Yeah – Andy (sic)?

Student (3): “Come, my Corinna, come; and comming, marke/ How each field turns a street; each street a Parke/ Made green, and trimm’d with trees: see how /Devotion gives each House a Bough,..”

AG: A bough – (a) tree bough

Student (3): “Or Branch: Each Porch, each doore, ere this, /An Arke a Tabernacle is/ Made up of white-thorn neatly enterwove;/ 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 obay/ The Proclamation made for May:/ And sin no more, as we have done, by staying/; But my Corinna, come, let’s goe a Maying..”.

AG: That’s a really nice invitation – David (sic)?

to be continued

{Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-eight-and=a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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