Corinna's Going A-Maying
What’s Up With the Title?
Like many of Herrick's poems, which have scandalous titles like "On the Nipples of Julia's Breast," this one's super specific. We've got a specific woman's name, a specific activity, and a declaration: this woman is going to bring in the May with me. Compare this to some of John Donne's contemporary poems, like "The Ecstasy" or "Song." Not a whole lotta information there.
But for all its specificity, the title "Corinna's Going A-Maying" is still confusing. It sounds completely sure of itself, as if Corinna's already out there on the romp, even though the whole poem is about persuading Corinna to get up and get out. So what's going on here? Is she coming or isn't she? The title says yes, the poem says… maybe.
Is this title an expression of wishful thinking? Or is it an announcement about the end of the story, as in, "sure, read it through for the themes and language but spoiler alert: Corinna is coming with me to the maypole."
Regardless, that one little "is" kicks up a lot of tension between the title and the poem. Depending on how you interpret "is going," the title could either be in the future tense or the present tense. Is Corinna going to join the May Day, the same way you're going to school in an hour? Or is she actually going to the May Day right now, mid-stride? If it's in future tense, then there's still an element of uncertainty—and five stanzas to do some heavy-duty persuadin'.