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334 "serves"

Page history last edited by rashidawilliams@... 6 years, 3 months ago

Robert Herrick's "Corinna's Going A-Maying" is a poem that appears to be begging a woman to get out of bed so the speaker and she could go frolic. The speaker rushes Corinna, telling her not to dress too fancy and "be brief in praying" (27). The speaker describes what other men and women have done while "a-maying" and he would like to do these activities with her but before it is too late. It seems that from the beginning the speaker is rushing Corinna to get up and enjoy nature, to witness the beauty that has taken place while she has stayed in bed. He opens the poem with, "Get up, get up for shame," which shows the speaker's agitation with her for missing the "dew bespangling herb and tree" (1-6). The last stanza explains that they must rush and enjoy this now "while time serves, and we are but decaying" as to suggest they must do this while they are still young(69). The word "serves" can be understood in more than one way. Serves could mean "to be a servant or perform the duties of a servant" which would imply the speaker wishes to go a-maying while time is servicing them - they must act while time is in their favor. It is clear that time is not to be wasted by the way Herrick illustrates nature's morning routine and therefore time not only serves nature and the speaker and Corinna, but time also allows nature and humans to serve their own purpose. Thus why the speaker is almost begging Corinna not to remain idle--their time is limited. There is a seemingly negative connotation attached to the word "serves" within the last stanza. Herrick writes, " Then while time serves, and we are but decaying, Come..." which seems to be the speaker's way of describing the mundanity of time yet the severity of wasting it (69). Similarly, if serves means to "preserve," then the narrator wishes to be preserved in the moment, live in the moment of merriment because they will soon decay with old age. In earlier lines, he says they will be dead and "made/ a fable, song . . .all delight/ lies drowned" as to imply that in their frolicking, time will leave them quickly so they must seize and preserve the moment in their memory(65-68).

     One definition of "serve" strikes a particular tone. Serve, as meaning "to earn the right or become worthy," reflects back to an earlier line in the play, when the speaker mentions "the proclamation made for May" in reference to Charles I's declaration of lawful sports. In this declaration, the people have earned the right to merry-making through the king. Thus, speaker could be telling Corinna to come a-maying because they have earned the right. The first definition of serve, of acting a servant, would apply here as well - more time has been 'served' to them now that they are allowed to play. So, not only is the speaker wishing to go a-maying while they are young enough, he also wants to play on a Sunday because the king deemed them worthy to do so.

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