Commonplace: Robert Herrick

I sing of Brooks, of BlossomesBirds, and Bowers:

Of AprilMay, of June, and July-Flowers.

I sing of May-polesHock-carts, WassailsWakes,

Of Bride-groomsBrides, and of their Bridall-cakes.

I write of Youth, of Love, and have Accesse

By these, to sing of cleanly-Wantonnesse.

I sing of Dewes, of Raines, and piece by piece

Of Balme, of Oyle, of Spice, and Amber-Greece.

I sing of Times trans-shifting; and I write

How Roses first came Red, and Lillies White.

I write of Groves, of Twilights, and I sing

The Court of Mab, and of the Fairie-King.

I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall)

Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all.
~ Robert Herrick, “The Argument of His Book”
I briefly touched on the themes of the Cavalier poets yesterday to explain the theme of sensuality running through British poetry. After all, Herrick and Andrew Marvell both wrote poems in the carpe diem vein–seize the day, ye virgins, because time won’t be kind. Both the best and the worst pick up line in the world, and said in the most dulcet tones. Yet this poem, “The Argument of His Book,” is perhaps my favorite poem by Herrick. I adore the line “By these, to sing of cleanly-Wantonnesse.” The concept that earthly pleasures are in fact to be enjoyed is still in some ways a unique one. There’s no anguishing here over the effects of wantonness. Just a recognition that time moves forward and so should we. Hatip Andrew Sullivan.


‘Per week. Yes. As to the amount of strain upon the intellect now. Was you thinking at all of poetry?’ Mr. Wegg inquired, musing.

‘Would it come dearer?’ Mr. Boffin asked.

‘It would come dearer,’ Mr. Wegg returned. ‘For when a person comes to grind off poetry night after night, it is but right he should expect to be paid for its weakening effect on his mind.’

-Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

Musings on the First Week

A random list of things from the first week of school:

  1. The number of campus announcements we get is utterly ridiculous.
  2. You can tell it’s the first week of school when you see an ambulance, fire truck, and the cops in the parking lot on day two. AR drivers don’t know how to stalk parking; hence, I park where I know I don’t have to deal with circling and just walk. I’m happier as a result, or at least until someone tries to hit me crossing the street because AR drivers also don’t know how to read cross walk lights.
  3. My colleagues rock. You all knew this fact, but I’m just reiterating it for posterity.
  4. The one quiet class is cultural studies; I’m taking bets on this not being the case by midterm.
  5. Four separate preps is just that much more work.
  6. ProfHacker‘s productivity week has made me make productivity goals–so I’m cordoning off Tuesday and Thursday mornings to write. (Full disclosure, one of my co-directors on The Periodical Poetry Index, Natalie Houston, writes for ProfHacker and is a productivity coach. I could only dream of being as efficient as she is.)
  7. It is possible to work New York Magazine‘s Approval Matrix into a class without it seeming off.
  8. I’ve managed to actually take attendance in every class. This is a feat of left brained book keeping I normally do without.
  9. Going a whole summer without wearing heels and then wearing heels almost every day the first week does a number on your feet, even if it makes your calves look awesome.
  10. I’m taking bets on me ending up on the ground during next week’s Powderpuff flag football game (faculty women vs. student women). The two times I’ve played flag football for intramurals, I have been elbowed in the nose (complete accident and the student was super sorry about it) and I have been tackled (that student misunderstood the purpose of the flags/just wanted to tackle someone/was crazy). As an added bonus, my friend is going to film it this year for posterity. If I manage to escape unscathed, I’m baking for Brit lit and Dickens.

Books that Shaped America

The Library of Congress has an exhibition of the influential books that shaped American culture since 1750. Some of these titles–Gatsby, The Jungle, Common Sense, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Little Women–are perhaps givens. (And happily, Theodore Dreiser is no where near this list.) There are also glaring holes–Phyllis Wheatley, but since her one volume of poetry was published in London not the US, I think the criteria, which isn’t explained, only accepted books published in the US. Except for the book needing to be by an American, the LOC website lists no other criteria for how books were selected.

Book lists are always odd, ideological, taste driven things. Most of the books on this list are canonical. Most are from the twentieth century, perhaps because too few nineteenth-century American scholars were consulted, but most likely because we tend to think American literature hit its stride with Fitzgerald and Hemingway. At least that’s the only explanation I have for the multiple Harriet Beecher Stowe entries while Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Eight Years & More is left off the list. Or even Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, which started it’s own fashion trend. I’m also kind of surprised at the number of contemporary American authors not in the 1950 to 2000 section. Surely American literature didn’t stop with Toni Morrison’s Beloved in 1987. Where’s Alice Walker’s The Color Purple? Or Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. The last might be a personal favorite, but I credit it with helping to change our view of comic books. I’m sure there are others I’m missing.

Song of the Day: The Dresden Dolls, “Good Day”

The Guardian has a fascinating interview with Amanda Palmer, one half of the performance pop act the Dresden Dolls. Oh, and she’s also married to Neil Gaiman. She also worked as a living statue, among other assorted professions. Anyway, the interview sent me to youtube, and the result is your song of the day.