Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English


Introduction to Literature

Poetic Variations

In the following piece, seventeenth-century cavalier poet RobertHerrick slightly breaks strict conventions of poetic techniquewithin most of the couplets (pairs of rhyming lines) in orderto illustrate, in subtle ways, his larger point. In other words,he intentionally screws up the rhyme or the meter, only barely,here and there. Try to identify where he introduces each variationand then determine the overall purpose of his practices in thecontext of this poem.

Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness.

A lawn1about the shoulders thrown                  1linen scarf

Into a fine distractiòn:

An erring2lace, which here and there                  2wandering

Enthralls the crimson stomacher3;                       3lower bodice

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbons to flow confusedly;

A winning wave, deserving note,

In the tempestuous petticoat;

A careless shoestring, in whosetie

I see a wild civility:

Do more bewitch me than whenart

Is too precise in every part.

Robert Herrick, “Delight in Disorder.” In The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. I. 5th ed. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., 1986: 1322.

Introduction to Literature