“Just” a list: from Robert Herrick’s Hesperides

English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) is best known for his single, yet voluminous book of poems, Hesperides (1648), which includes such perennial favorites as “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” beginning with “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”; and  “Delight in Disorder.” The collection is less well known for being, according to the Poetry Foundation, “the only major collection of poetry in English to open with a versified table of contents”: that is, with a list. Herrick gives this list the title “The Argument of His Book”:

I sing of Brooks, of Blossomes, Birds, and Bowers:
Of April, May of June, and July-Flowers,
I sing of May-poles, Hock-carts, Wassails, Wakes,
Of Bride-grooms, Brides, and of their Bridall-cakes.
I write of Youth, of Love, and have Accesse
By these, to sing of cleanly-Wantonnesse.
I sing of Dewes of Raines, and piece by piece
Of Balme, of Oyle, of Spice, and Amber-Greece.
I sing of Time’s trans-shfiting; and I write
How Roses first came Red, and Lillies White.
I write of Groves, of Twilights, and I sing
The Court of Mab, and the Fairie-King.
I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall)
Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all.

We will let readers explore this list’s many beauties on their own and only note that we selected it for its consonance with this late August time of “Time’s trans-shifting.”

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