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Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast Analysis

Author: Poetry of Robert Herrick Type: Poetry Views: 392

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Have ye beheld (with much delight)

A red rose peeping through a white?

Or else a cherry (double graced)

Within a lily? Centre placed?

Or ever marked the pretty beam

A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?

Or seen rich rubies blushing through

A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?

So like to this, nay all the rest,

Is each neat niplet of her breast.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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In Robert Herrick’s poem “Upon the Nipples of Julia’s Breast,” he describes his love by focusing on a specific part of Julia’s body, exploring themes of peace, purity, and prosperity through metaphor.
In the second line of the poem, Herrick describes Julia’s nipple as a “red rose peeping through a white,” signifying unity. In the War of the Roses, the houses of York and Lancaster, represented by a white rose and a red rose respectively, fought for the crown and were eventually united when the Tudors came to power, their family signified by a red and white rose. Herrick is suggesting that the power of his love is great enough to unite warring parties. And his love is physical. Far from something he should be ashamed of, the physical union between man and woman is a powerful weapon for peace.
In lines three and four, Herrick uses the metaphors of a cherry and a lily to describe Julia’s breast. Cherries represent the sweet character cultivated through good deeds, and Julia has “a cherry, double grac’d,” two breasts, but also twice the virtue. A lily represents purity and virginity, and circles were considered holy, so the cherry in “a lily center plac’d” is a physical manifestation of her deep innocence. It is interesting that Herrick uses a description of Julia’s breasts to praise her purity, but he may be trying to push the boundaries of poetic themes here, fully embracing the carnal without blushing. Perhaps this is a commentary on attitudes that sexuality should be something shameful or hidden, and he is saying exactly the opposite – that a sex organ can best embody innocence.
In lines seven and eight, he uses images of wealth to describe Julia’s breasts. The “rich rubies” and “pure smooth pearl” are both precious stones. Rubies also represent passion, and pearls purity, so together they signify a love in which physical passion arises from the innocent attraction of souls, as in Donne’s poetry. The pearl is orient, meaning that it comes from Asia, which is where the wealthy often had their fine goods imported from. These nice things are reserved for the ruling class, but Herrick argues in conceit with these lines that he and his lover are blessed with such riches though they lack the standing for them.
In conclusion, Herrick challenges conventions about open physicality and the shame associated with it, suggesting that passionate physical love actually cultivates peace, purity, and prosperity for those who welcome it.

| Posted on 2012-03-26 | by a guest

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