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Charm me asleep, and melt me so
With thy delicious numbers,
That, being ravish’d, hence I go
Away in easy slumbers.
Ease my sick head,
And make my bed,
Thou power that canst sever
From me this ill,
And quickly still,
Though thou not kill
Thou sweetly canst convert the same
From a consuming fire
Into a gentle licking flame,
And make it thus expire.
Then make me weep
My pains asleep;
And give me such reposes
That I, poor I,
May think thereby
I live and die
Fall on me like the silent dew,
Or like those maiden showers
Which, by the peep of day, do strew
A baptism o’er the flowers.
Melt, melt my pains
With thy soft strains;
That, having ease me given,
With full delight
I leave this light,
And take my flight
–Robert Herrick, To Music, to becalm his Fever (ca. 1660) in Chrysomela: A Selection from the Lyrical Poems of Robert Herrick p. 229 (F.T. Palgrave ed. 1876)
Download a reading of Herrick’s To Music for your iPod or MP3 player here.
Of the seventeenth century English poets, Herrick’s work has the closest inherent relationship to music. It is melodious, and most of his poems (excepting perhaps the more religiously themed ones) have the character of song about them. Among his contemporaries, in fact, Herrick is called “the songwriter,” and settings of some of his poems survive (unfortunately for him, the poetry is much better than the music.) Still reading this particularly beautiful effort (note especially: “Fall on me like the silent dew, / Or like those maiden showers/ Which, by the peep of day, do strew/ A baptism o’er the flowers.” The construction and language are wonderful), I think immediately of John Dowland’s songs, especially the Second and Third Books. There is an inescapably downbeat angle to them, but they are beautiful, lyrical and thematically very close to Herrick.
Listen to John Dowland’s Lachrymae Pavane as performed by Winston Arblaster in the Bishop’s Chapel, Wells, England – there are no lyrics for this “dance of tears,” so imagine Herrick’s appeal to the curative power of music.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.
I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.
Age at death last March of the sturgeon Nikita, Khrushchev’s gift to Norway, after an accidental immersion in salt water:
There were new reports of cannibalism in North Korea.
The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”