Robert Herrick (1591-1674) is classified as a 'Cavalier Poet,' that is, he belonged to a group of poets who supported King Charles I during the Civil War. During the Civil War on account of his support to the Royalist cause he fell out of favor with the government, but after King Charles II was restored to the throne the King honored him and made him the Vicar at Dean Prior at Devonshire. During his student days at Cambridge and as a budding poet he was a great admirer of the Jacobean dramatist and lyricist Ben Jonson (1572-1637) and was a member of the group of admirers of Ben Jonson called the Sons of Ben. At the same time he was a contemporary of the Metaphysical Poets like George Herbert (1593–1633).
The poem is about a few unconscious mistakes one makes while dressing. Instead of criticizing the errors the poet looks amused and even enjoys them. But at a deeper level Herrick seems to be making an important statement in this poem about his views on Art and Religion. In both, he rejects strict, strong discipline and recommends freedom. While dressing a disorder or mistake happen. It is not noticed by the person concerned. Herrick first praises wantonness, or playfulness, which he discovers in clothes arrayed in “sweet disorder.” He proceeds to describe that disorder, beginning with a scarf thrown about the shoulders. Herrick then takes note of the lace embroidery that decorates the lady’s stomacher, a garment worn beneath the bodice. It is not the quality or the design of the lace that he notes, but simply the fact that it is not quite perfect in its placement; it is indeed an “erring lace.” The next element of the lady’s dress that catches Herrick’s eye is a cuff decorated with ribbons. He tells nothing of the design of the blouse or the color of the ribbons. All that catches his eye is the suggestion of neglect in the cuff, and that the ribbons are not fixed carefully in place, but rather “flow confusedly.” He then proceeds to the petticoat, noting that its smooth spread is broken by a wave. In Herrick’s susceptible perception, this is no calm wave quietly moving its way to shore, but a absolute whitecap in a storm. Finally, Herrick ends his list by arriving at the shoestring. Even in this small item of dress his responsive heart finds a “wild civility.” The end of all this is simple: Herrick finds such disorder far more delightful than when “art/ Is too precise in every part.” So one need not be so very careful in dressing. The occasional careless mistakes or oversights in dressing delight the poet as a kind of new style and he is delighted in the disorder. Disorder, when occasionally happened, delights a person. Though the poem appears casual and superficial we also note as seriousness of the poet’s rejection of stern discipline in preference to freedom. CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF THE POEM:
The lyric "Delight in Disorder" is from his collection of lyrics "Hesperides" published in 1648. The idea of the poem is that the poet narrator finds a woman who has dressed carelessly more attractive and seductive than a woman who has dressed very correctly. The following adjectives foreground the lack of attention by the woman to the various articles of her dress: "disorder," "distraction," "erring," "neglectful," "confusedly," "tempestuous" and "careless." She has worn every article of her dress carelessly, however it is this complete lack of attention to her dress which makes her look sexy ["wantonness"] and "bewitches" him all the more. "Delight in Disorder." Cavalier poetry is secular and its language and imagery are simple and direct unlike Metaphysical poetry which is characterized by complicated imagery which renders the poem unclear. The ambiguity in this poem is, whether Herrick is describing a woman who has dressed carelessly or a painting of a woman who has dressed carelessly - "than when art/Is too precise in every part." A lyric is an expression of the...