Robert Herrick’s epitaphs to young girls

Victorian post mortem photograph
Victorian post mortem photograph – from pixieandrotter.com

In a previous post I presented five epitaphs to children from Robert Herrick’s The Hesperides & Noble Numbers. Here I will give three more epitaphs by him, but this time devoted to young girls. The poems come from the Project Gutenberg EBook transcription of the 1898 edition in two volumes by Alfred Pollard of The Hesperides & Noble Numbers.

In poem number 450, the beauty of the deceased girl imposes silence:

AN EPITAPH UPON A VIRGIN.

Here a solemn fast we keep,
While all beauty lies asleep
Hush’d be all things—no noise here—
But the toning of a tear:
Or a sigh of such as bring
Cowslips for her covering.

Poem number 838 also stresses the beauty of the dead girl, but here it requires singing a requiem for her:

UPON A MAID.

Here she lies, in bed of spice,
Fair as Eve in Paradise:
For her beauty it was such
Poets could not praise too much.
Virgins, come, and in a ring
Her supremest requiem sing;
Then depart, but see ye tread
Lightly, lightly, o’er the dead.

Poem number 912 suggests to cover the girl’s tomb with an abundance of flowers and garlands:

UPON A VIRGIN.

Spend, harmless shade, thy nightly hours
Selecting here both herbs and flowers;
Of which make garlands here and there
To dress thy silent sepulchre.
Nor do thou fear the want of these
In everlasting properties,
Since we fresh strewings will bring hither,
Far faster than the first can wither.

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