Robert Herrick

Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.


(Note: the poem was published in 1648; "distraction" would have been pronounced with four syllables. For other words, see a good dictionary.)

This poem makes a fine comparison with Jonson's "Still to be neat ..." In this one, pay special attention to the figurative language. What is it registering? What effects of diction are especially noteworthy? (What's the etymology of "erring"? Of "civility"? The various connotations of "precise"? etc. etc.)


  • Return to the index of poems