Delight in Disorder – Robert Herrick

Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.

Robert Herrick 1591 – 1674

I do like the light gentle sensual interplay between gentleman and lady … although the lady is only speaking with her dress  … I say gentleman and lady because Robert Herrick was a clergyman and I guess he had association with the more refined – the drawing room ladies of his time … look at the description of the dress in the above text … apart from a tempestuous petticoat there are a couple of unusual words …

Lawn = a fine light cotton or cotton-and-polyester fabric. Use: clothing, household linen.

Stomacher = a stiff panel of material, often decorated with embroidery or jewels, worn over the chest and abdomen by women in the 17th and 18th centuries, and earlier by both sexes

Ribands = a ribbon, especially one that is presented to somebody as an award or prize

The last lines are the most important and here we see the movement from the dress of a lady to art … of course art and the female form are synonymous so it is not a great transference.  I have a certain sympathy with the suggestion that ‘art’ as well as dress needs a little disorder to give it a more human quality … but perhaps a lost arm doesn’t always enhance.

The poem is a fourteen line sonnet of rhyming couplets though some of the end rhymes may be seen as a little disorderly … for example ‘tie’ and ‘civility’ … but there again perhaps this is very appropriate in the expression of the underlining sentiment of the poem!

… so the bottom line is if you are making your own custard don’t worry if there is an uneven quality and even a few small lumps hanging around … the taste is all that matters … you will be forgiven, and of course you can’t be perfect.

Your word in my ear ...

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