Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Proper Place, Part Three: "Discontents In Devon"

Robert Herrick, a Londoner by birth, began serving as vicar of Dean Prior in Devon in 1629.  Herrick was wont to complain about this rural location. However, one wonders whether Herrick, who had a playful temperament, did not have his tongue at least partly in cheek when he bemoaned his life in Devon.

     To His Household Gods

Rise, household gods, and let us go;
But whither I myself not know.
First, let us dwell on rudest seas;
Next, with severest savages;
Last, let us make our best abode
Where human foot as yet ne'er trod:
Search worlds of ice, and rather there
Dwell than in loathed Devonshire.

Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648).

                                David Chatterton, "Devon Scene" (1942)

In 1647, Herrick was removed from his post in Dean Prior due to his alleged royalist sympathies.  One would think that he was well rid of the place.  However, after the Restoration, Herrick petitioned King Charles II to be reappointed to his vicarage.  The petition was granted, and Herrick returned to Dean Prior in 1660.  He died there fourteen years later.

Perhaps Devon was Herrick's Proper Place after all.  Before he was removed from his post in 1647, he wrote the following poem.

     Discontents in Devon

More discontents I never had
   Since I was born, than here;
Where I have been, and still am sad,
   In this dull Devonshire;
Yet justly too I must confess,
   I ne'er invented such
Ennobled numbers for the press
   Than where I loathed so much.

Ibid.  "Ennobled numbers" is an allusion to Noble Numbers, Herrick's collection of religious poems that was published, together with Hesperides, in 1648.

                               Robert Bevan, "Burford Farm, Devon" (1918)

The following poem may best reflect Herrick's feelings about Dean Prior and Devon, even though they are not mentioned in the poem.

          The Coming of Good Luck

So good luck came, and on my roof did light,
Like noiseless snow, or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are by the sunbeams tickled by degrees.


              Arthur Henry Andrews (1906-1966), "A Farmhouse in Devon"


Anonymous said...

Hello Stephen, I wish I could adequately express how thrilled I am to have found 'First Known When Lost'. It's given me a lot of joy. I appreciate the paintings you've chosen and of course the poetry and your writing. Your blog really does hold the essence of poetry for us to visit and dwell in for a while. I am new to Edward Thomas, but have loved Walter de la Mare and Robert Frost from a young age. Thank you very much for this gift you're giving. Best wishes, Ann

Stephen Pentz said...

Ann: I greatly appreciate your kind words. Since this is, as the saying goes, a labor of love, I am always gratified to discover that the things that I find inspiring may also be of interest to others.

I'm delighted that I may have helped to introduce you to Edward Thomas. As far as I'm concerned, if I can do anything, however small, to spread the word about him (and others) this undertaking is well worth it.

Thank you again. I'm happy that you found your way here.