A NEW YEAR’S GIFT SENT TO SIR SIMON STEWARD by Robert Herrick has many allusions to various 17th century events and customs, not that you have to be very much abreast of those to understand the poem in its entirety.

The poet has resorted to wistful nostalgia in this poem. With that the poet has also infused gentle humor. What we can also see is the poet’s love for the simple pleasures of the small town and country side.

The poetry also has references to Christmas sports of the then period. As was seen common among the poets of the Restoration Period, Herrick’s writing is purely poetic, there is no didactic intonation or even city like polish or sensationalizing via rhetoric.

It is the simple and lucid style of writing of Robert Herrick that made him much popular. The poetry brings out man’s universal want of a peaceful New Year, a year without any kind of combat, a year that the common man can enjoy with his dear ones in a happy home and hearth.

No news of navies burnt at seas;
No noise of late spawn’d tittyries;

No closet plot or open vent,
That frights men with a Parliament:
No new device or late-found trick,
To read by th’ stars the kingdom’s sick;
No gin to catch the State, or wring
The free-born nostril of the King,
We send to you; but here a jolly
Verse crown’d with ivy and with holly;
That tells of winter’s tales and mirth

That milk-maids make about the hearth;
Of Christmas sports, the wassail-bowl,
That toss’d up, after Fox-i’-th’-hole;
Of Blind-man-buff, and of the care
That young men have to shoe the Mare;
Of twelf-tide cakes, of pease and beans,
Wherewith ye make those merry scenes,
Whenas ye chuse your king and queen,
And cry out, ‘Hey for our town green!’–

Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use
Husbands and wives by streaks to chuse;
Of crackling laurel, which fore-sounds
A plenteous harvest to your grounds;
Of these, and such like things, for shift,
We send instead of New-year’s gift.
–Read then, and when your faces shine
With buxom meat and cap’ring wine,
Remember us in cups full crown’d,

And let our city-health go round,
Quite through the young maids and the men,
To the ninth number, if not ten;
Until the fired chestnuts leap
For joy to see the fruits ye reap,
From the plump chalice and the cup
That tempts till it be tossed up.–
Then as ye sit about your embers,
Call not to mind those fled Decembers;

But think on these, that are t’ appear,
As daughters to the instant year;
Sit crown’d with rose-buds, and carouse,
Till LIBER PATER twirls the house
About your ears, and lay upon
The year, your cares, that’s fled and gone:
And let the russet swains the plough
And harrow hang up resting now;
And to the bag-pipe all address,

Till sleep takes place of weariness.
And thus throughout, with Christmas plays,
Frolic the full twelve holy-days.

– By Robert Herrick

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