06 February 2009

herrick this morning

Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

I commented on a post over at Plants and Stones a few days ago and ended with “Delight in disorder,” and I remembered loving this poem when I first read it way back in college. Herrick was around during the beginning of the Neoclassical/Enlightenment era, I guess, which was all about restraint and reason and order, not that I think he was a participant in any “movement” (or consciously rebelling against one, in this instance). But I recall my professor surmising that the “disorder” described in this poem might have been far more arranged than casual (along the lines of Marie Antoinette’s playing at being a country shepherdess at the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles); as in very carefully choreographed disorder.

But then I may be misremembering this particular professor’s interpretation.

All that said (and acknowledging for the record that there is not any artifice at all around my disorder), “Delight in Disorder” does it for me this morning. And every morning, as I race to get ready for the day. And every weekend, as I contemplate the “sweet disorder” of our gardens upstate. And always, as I . . . and so on and on (and on) and so forth.

Johnny A, what’s your recollection/interpretation of this poem?

(Thanks to FlowerGardenGirl for the idea of a slightly ragged Echinacea purpurea bloom.)


  1. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Awwww....you are so welcome. Love how you wrote this up! She is grand even if she's a bit haggled. I love her anyway. I delight in my disorder too.

  2. Anonymous5:13 PM

    I've always delighted in disorder, Jared -- I think there are no mistakes. :-) And I've loved Herrick ever since I first read, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may..." Great post.

  3. J.

    I remember nothing from college English classes, except the handsome lads . . .

    Re the poem, though, I think you're right. All the wildness is in pretty fussy things- lawns (not jungles), lace, cuffs, Petticoats. It's not complete disorder; it's small disorder in carefully constructed things of beauty.

    And the last two lines? Do more bewitch me than when art
    Is TOO (my emphasis) precise in every part.

    It's the too precise that bugs the poet/speaker. But that's no call for rough and au natural.

    There's my 2 cents.