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transitory human experience, poetry, Christianity


Recent critics of Hesperides, less content than their predecessors with the plucking of but one of Herrick's golden apples, the examination of its beauty, and the savoring of its sweetness, have attempted the task of surveying the landscape of the entire garden, elucidating the pattern of its design, and identifying the various species of plants growing therein. The emphasis now is on seeing Hesperides as an integrated and thematically unified construct. The studies by Whitaker, Chambers, Deming, Rollin, and DeNeef are concerned with the ceremonial mode that pervades the poems in Hesperides. The consensus of these writers is that Herrick uses ritual to preserve transitory human experience through the permanence of art and to transcend death through the immortality of poetry; thus, they consider mode and theme unifying factors. The essays of John L. Kimmey, on the other hand, suggest that the unity of the book is based on the persona and the three roles he plays: the poet, "fusing classical and Christian motifs to write poetry that will make him eternally famous"; the aging lover, "searching for rejuvenation through the company of young mistresses and through participation in bucolic life"; and the Londoner-in-exile, "banished to western England during a period of social and political upheaval." Illuminating the literary and religious conventions with which the poet worked, Heather Asals finds the continuity of Hesperides in the figure of a persona, whoo, like Solomon, acts as a teacher and preacher; in the metaphorical language derived from biblical Wisdom literature; and in three Solomonic themes—wisdom, kingship, and wealth.