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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:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Percentage increase in the annual number of polio cases in Pakistan since 2005:
A bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles was found in northwestern China; and a spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that “this is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found.”
A federal judge sentenced the journalist Barrett Brown to 63 months in prison for sharing a link to information stolen from the private-intelligence firm Stratfor by a hacker in 2011. “Good news!” Brown said in a statement. “They’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”