Corinna's Going A-Maying
by Robert Herrick
Stanza 4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
There's not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream
Before that we have left to dream:
- Nature's not the only one that's been busy this morning. All the village young people have been up and at it since the dawn, gathering branches and decorating their front porches.
- "Budding" gives these adolescents a flower-like feel, emphasizing their natural connection with springtime. It also indicates that they're still growing—not quite adults, but definitely awash in hormonal urges.
- If this sounds more like a middle school cafeteria and less like a fun day out, remember that responsibility was fast-tracked in the 17th century. These teenagers were already planning careers (at least the boys) and future marriages.
- Some have been out with the wheelbarrow and clippers, but others have been chillaxing. It's not a festival without refreshments, right? Well, you better get your speed on, Corinna, before the youngsters eat every crumb of dessert before you're even in your bathrobe.
- We don't know about you (or Corinna), but to us "cakes and cream" is just one more reason to love May Day. This is a holiday that celebrates material pleasures, and all the sweet, sticky, fragrant, beautiful things that make life worth living.
And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
Many a green-gown has been given;
Many a kiss, both odd and even:
Many a glance too has been sent
From out the eye, love's firmament;
- Along with collecting branches and eating creamy layer cakes, these budding boys and girls have also been wooing each other this morning.
- Some keep it PG and commitment-free, flirting with simple glances and chaste kisses. But others put a little raunch into the romp. "Green-gowns" is a euphemism for sex, since any girl lying on her back in the grass would get telltale stains.
- Others have marriage on the mind. Although the speaker is compressing the time frame for effect (i.e., getting Corinna out of bed), it seems that a lot of these young people are interested in putting a ring on it.
- It may be unlikely for a couple to date, get engaged, and pick a wedding date and priest all in a single morning. But the speaker wants Corinna to know that a lot of folks are getting a move on with their future lives and happiness—all while she lies in bed.
- Hear that alliterative pep? We've got "cakes and cream" in line 47, "wept" and "woo'd" in line 49, and the infamous "green-gown" of line 51.
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd, yet we're not a-Maying.
- If you thought the green gowns were dirty (and we're talking more than grass stains), get a load of the euphemistic metaphor here. These locks and keys and picks are clear stand-ins for people who are getting it on.
- The girls are the locks, meant to be opened by a designated key (probably a husband or at least a fiancé). But it looks like these keys are currently MIA or maybe even nonexistent. Come on, a lot of these girls are super-young.
- Instead the locks are going to be picked tonight—illicitly opened by inappropriate dudes.
- There's more than a whiff here of sexual assault, what with this breaking-in imagery. But the speaker neutralizes the violence by telling Corinna that these stories are jokes. Does that mean all the ladies were willing? Or could this festival also shield some not-so-savory non-consent?