Corinna's Going A-Maying
by Robert Herrick
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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:
- The imperatives continue in stanza 2. The speaker tells Corinna to get up and dress herself with the simplicity and freshness of nature. What, you mean I can't wear my jeggings? Heck no! Using a metaphor, he calls her clothes "foliage" (leafy green stuff), and then grabs a simile to say she's purty as Flora, Roman goddess of the spring and flowers.
- And with Flora we've met our third pagan. For more on Flora's history and significance, tune in here.
- In fact, he adds, don't even worry about primping. Looking fresh and nature-like is what's stylin' on May Day. Those jangly gold hoops? Your favorite sock bun? Totally inappropriate.
- But does he actually want her to show up in some flower chains, ready for Woodstock? Probably not. All this talk of foliage and freshness is figurative. He just wants Corinna to embody the simple sweetness of nature, from her clothes to her favors (hey-o).
- Notice how some of these sentences are wrapping around two lines with no comma or semicolon to break it up?
- Line 17 for instance starts a sentence with "take no care" but has to finish it in line 18, "for jewels." That kind of wrap-around action is called enjambment. It adds to the flow of the poem, drawing your eye forward. Head down to "Form and Meter" for more.
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. […]
- Don't worry, Corinna, if you feel a little less put-together than usual. Nature's gonna take care of it. Those personified leaves are going to give you "gems," a metaphor for dewdrops or flowers. But hey, she probably wouldn't say no to a cute little fern frond either.
- But save the best for last. The early dawn has been keeping some pre-dew aside, just for the pleasure of scattering those drops in Corinna's hair. "Against" here means "in anticipation of" and "orient" means this dew comes from the east, i.e. from the rising sun.
- These are time-sensitive offers, however, because they're hanging on the "dew-locks" of the night and this dawn is coming fast ("dew-locks" is a Herrick-invented word, probably meaning the dew-wet hair of the personified night).
- These drops would probably already have evaporated, but the "Titan" (referring to the night disappearing in the east) is willing to wait it out. At first it looks like he's going to disappear, but nope, he's going to dawdle, keeping those dew-pearls wet and unevaporated.
- Wait a second, the night is going to hang around for her? Isn't that, like, stopping time? This gal must be something else because nature itself caters to her whims.
- Say "stand still" out loud. Notice how you naturally slow down over those two st's? It's like the line is slowing down along with the night. Nifty, right?
[…] Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.
- The night was slowing down in line 26, but line 27 is exactly the opposite. The short single syllables of "wash, dress, be brief" give the line a quick, brisk feeling. It's getting late, Corinna, so you'd better get a move on.
- But what's this about being "brief in praying"? And skipping most of the rosary? Rewind back to stanza 1. There, the speaker claimed that staying inside was a sin, using Christian rhetoric to celebrate a pagan holiday. Here he's more obvious. The guy's actually encouraging her to ditch the religious stuff and come out for some frisky play.