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Corinna's Going A-Maying

Corinna's Going A-Maying

by Robert Herrick

Tradition and Customs Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

[…] 'tis sin,
    Nay, profanation to keep in,
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May (11-14)

"Sin" and "profanation" are dripping with Christianity, but is the speaker talking about missing Sunday school or buying soda on the Sabbath? Not a chance. He flips these words around, adds a dash of irony, and claims instead that it's a sin to play hooky on May Day. In other words, May Day = a Holy Day, not just a holiday. By sleeping in, Corinna's not respecting this day of village fun.

Quote #2

                      Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying (27-28)

He's not telling her to skip praying completely, but he does want her to cut some corners. This is a day of revelry and joy, not religious devotion.

Quote #3

[…] see how
    Devotion gives each house a bough
    Or branch: each porch, each door ere this
    An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove. (31-35)

Instead of a real ark or tabernacle (sacred vessels used in Christian churches), the village houses are decorated with branches of flowering trees. So why would the speaker pick such a religious metaphor? Just like in lines 11-14, he's stealing religious language and reinventing it for this pagan holiday. These braided branches might not be Christian objects, but they're just as holy—they're just symbols of love, nature, and tradition instead of God.

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