History

Robert Herrick

History

In 1994 a memorial to lyric poet Robert Herrick was unveiled in the new Poets' Corner window in Westminster Abbey. The glass is by Graham Jones and also contains memorials to Alexander Pope, Oscar Wilde, A.E.Housman, Fanny Burney, Christopher Marlowe and Elizabeth Gaskell.  The inscription on a panel in the window reads:

 

1591-1674

Robert Herrick

GATHER YE ROSE

BUDS WHILE

YE MAY

Robert was born in London, a son of Nicholas Herrick (or Heryck) and his wife Julian (Stone). His father was a jeweller but was killed falling from a window when Robert was an infant so Robert and his elder brothers Thomas and Nicholas were brought up by their uncles and his other brother William and sister Mercy stayed with their mother. He was apprenticed to his uncle William and then entered St John's College, Cambridge. In 1623 he was ordained a priest and was domestic chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham on his ill-fated expedition to La Rochelle. In 1629 he became Vicar of Dean Prior in Devon, where he was eventually buried. He had already started writing poems and also wrote the following epitaph on the memorial to his niece Elizabeth (d.1630) in St Margaret's church Westminster (the original memorial had disappeared in the 18th century and was replaced by a new one in 1955):

"In memory of the late deceased virgin Mistris Elizabeth Hereicke.

Sweet Virgin that I doe not set thy grave-verse up in mournfull jet or dapl'd marble let thy shade not wraithful seeme or I right the maid who hither at her weeping howres shall come to strew thy earth with flowres. No, know blest soule when there's not one remainder left of brasses or stone thy living epitaph shall be though lost in them yet found in me. Deare, in thy bed of roses then till this world shall dissolve (as men) sleepe, while we hide thee from the light drawing thy curtains round - Good night.

This epitaph by Robert Herrick, formerly on a mural tablet in the middle of the north aisle of this church was restored in memory of James Rumsey..."

In 1639 he married Lettice Yarde. During the English Civil War he was replaced as minister and came to London where a collection of over one thousand of his poems were published in one work Hesperides. He died on 15 October 1674.

A photo of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.