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To Daffodils(1648)

Robert Herrick

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
MeterFair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
MeterYou haste away so soon;
As yet the early rising sun
MeterAs yet the early rising sun
Has not attain’d his noon.
MeterHas not attain’d his noon.
Stay, stay,
MeterStay, stay,
Until the hasting day
MeterUntil the hasting day
Has run
MeterHas run
But to the even-song;
MeterBut to the even-song;
And, having pray’d together, we
MeterAnd, having pray’d together, we
Will go with you along.
MeterWill go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
MeterWe have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
MeterWe have as short a spring;

Note on line 12: The little word “we” goes in and out of stress in this lyric, as its range of reference deepens. First it sorts humans and flowers far enough apart to afford the conventional sort of pity to which the slack “we” of line 1 corresponds. By line 9, though, a dawning recognition that human life is no less transient than floral life exposes “we” on a stressed precipice of enjambment. The stress persists into line 11 to emphasize the new stanza’s ripening conviction that decay and death await us humans too. And then in line 12, as once more in line 15, “we” goes slack again, but now to render a fatality that all of nature shares: the subject of the rest of this sobering poem remains, not “we human beings,” but “we living, mortal things.”

As quick a growth to meet decay,
MeterAs quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
MeterAs you, or anything.
We die
MeterWe die
As your hours do, and dry
MeterAs your hours do, and dry
Away,
MeterAway,
Like to the summer’s rain;
MeterLike to the summer’s rain;
Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,
MeterOr as the pearls of morning’s dew,
Ne’er to be found again.
MeterNe’er to be found again.

Rhyme
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