'Delight In Disorder' by Robert Herrick

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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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Delight In Disorder by Robert Herrick: A Celebration of Life's Imperfections

Oh, what a delightful piece of poetry we have here! Robert Herrick's "Delight In Disorder" is a masterpiece that celebrates the beauty and charm of life's imperfections. With its vivid imagery, playful language, and cheerful tone, it invites the reader to embrace the joys of spontaneity, unpredictability, and imperfection.

But what is this poem really about? What is its message, and what are the literary devices that Herrick uses to convey it? In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore these questions in detail and unravel the complexities of this charming masterpiece.

Background and Context

Before we delve into the poem itself, let us take a moment to understand its historical and cultural context. "Delight In Disorder" was written in the 17th century by Robert Herrick, a poet and Anglican priest who lived during the reigns of James I and Charles I. This was a time of great political and social upheaval in England, marked by the English Civil War and the rise of Puritanism.

The Puritans were a religious group that emerged in the 16th century as a reaction against the perceived corruption and excesses of the Church of England. They believed in strict adherence to the Bible and rejected any form of religious or secular pleasure that they deemed sinful or frivolous. This included music, dance, theater, and even colorful clothing.

Against this backdrop of Puritanism, Herrick's poetry stands out as a celebration of life's joys and pleasures. He was part of a group of poets known as the Cavalier poets, who wrote in a style that was characterized by elegance, wit, and a love of beauty and sensuality. Unlike the Puritans, they saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured, and they celebrated the pleasures of the senses, the beauty of nature, and the charm of human imperfection.

Poem Analysis

Now that we have some context, let us turn our attention to the poem itself. "Delight In Disorder" is a short lyric poem that consists of three stanzas, each with six lines. It follows an AABBCC rhyme scheme, with the first and second lines rhyming with each other, the third and fourth lines rhyming with each other, and the fifth and sixth lines rhyming with each other.

The poem begins with a paradoxical statement: "A sweet disorder in the dress / Kindles in clothes a wantonness." This line sets the tone and theme of the poem, which is the celebration of spontaneity and unpredictability. Herrick uses paradox and irony throughout the poem to convey his message, and this first line is a good example of that.

The second stanza continues the theme of unpredictability and spontaneity, as Herrick describes the speaker's delight in the "disorder" of a woman's hair. He uses vivid and playful language to describe the woman's hair, using words such as "glorious," "golden," and "flying." This creates a sense of movement and energy, as if the hair is alive and dancing.

The third stanza brings the poem to a close by returning to the theme of paradox and irony. Herrick acknowledges that some people might see the disorder and imperfection in the world as a sign of chaos and ruin, but he argues that it is precisely these imperfections that make life beautiful and worth living. He uses another paradoxical statement to drive this point home: "Though with the flame in beauty's cheek / The spirit of a star doth speak."

Literary Devices

Now that we have analyzed the poem's structure and theme, let us turn our attention to the literary devices that Herrick uses to convey his message.


As we have seen, paradox is a central literary device in "Delight In Disorder." Herrick uses paradox to create a sense of surprise and playfulness, as well as to challenge the reader's assumptions about what is beautiful and worthwhile. By presenting disorder and imperfection as things to be celebrated rather than condemned, he invites the reader to see the world in a new and more joyful way.


Herrick's use of imagery is another key aspect of the poem's appeal. He uses vivid and playful language to create images that are both beautiful and humorous. For example, the image of a woman's hair as a "glorious gold" that is "flying about" creates a sense of movement and energy that is both beautiful and playful.

Rhyme and Meter

The poem's rhyme and meter also contribute to its charm and appeal. The AABBCC rhyme scheme creates a sense of symmetry and balance, while the use of iambic meter (with stressed and unstressed syllables alternating) creates a sense of rhythm and musicality. This gives the poem a sense of playfulness and joy that is in keeping with its theme.


In conclusion, "Delight In Disorder" is a charming and playful poem that celebrates the beauty and charm of life's imperfections. Herrick uses paradox, imagery, and rhyme to convey his message, inviting the reader to see the world in a new and more joyful way. By celebrating the spontaneity, unpredictability, and imperfection of life, he offers us a vision of beauty and joy that is both refreshing and inspiring. And for that, we can all be grateful.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Delight In Disorder: A Masterpiece of Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick, a renowned English poet, is known for his unique style of writing that reflects his love for nature, beauty, and simplicity. His poem, "Delight in Disorder," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of his poetic style. The poem is a celebration of the beauty found in imperfection and disorder, and it is a testament to the power of nature to inspire and delight.

The poem is structured in a simple and straightforward manner, with four stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, which gives the poem a musical quality. The poem begins with the speaker expressing his delight in the disorder of his mistress's hair, which he compares to the "sweet disorder" of a wildflower garden. He goes on to describe how her hair falls in "curled knots" and "tangled ruffs," which he finds more beautiful than if it were perfectly arranged.

The second stanza continues the theme of disorder, with the speaker describing how his mistress's clothing is "loose and wide," and how her "careless tresses" fall around her face. He finds this disheveled appearance to be more alluring than if she were dressed in a more formal and structured manner. The speaker then compares his mistress's beauty to that of a "sweet disorder" found in nature, such as the "wilderness" of a forest or the "chaos" of a stormy sea.

In the third stanza, the speaker reflects on how the beauty of disorder is not limited to his mistress's appearance but can also be found in the natural world. He describes how the "loose" and "flowing" movements of a river are more beautiful than if it were perfectly still, and how the "wanton" winds that blow through the trees are more delightful than a calm and peaceful day. The speaker concludes this stanza by stating that disorder is not a flaw but a "grace" that adds to the beauty of the world.

The final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the fleeting nature of beauty and how it is often found in unexpected places. The speaker compares the beauty of his mistress's disorder to the "fleeting" beauty of a rainbow, which is only visible for a brief moment before it disappears. He then states that he will continue to find delight in disorder, even if it is only for a fleeting moment, because it is a reminder of the beauty and grace that can be found in imperfection.

The poem is a celebration of the beauty found in imperfection and disorder, and it is a testament to the power of nature to inspire and delight. The speaker finds beauty in the disheveled appearance of his mistress, in the "sweet disorder" of nature, and in the fleeting moments of beauty that can be found in unexpected places. The poem is a reminder that perfection is not necessary for beauty and that disorder can be a source of grace and delight.

In conclusion, "Delight in Disorder" is a masterpiece of Robert Herrick that captures the essence of his poetic style. The poem celebrates the beauty found in imperfection and disorder, and it is a testament to the power of nature to inspire and delight. The poem's simple structure and musical quality make it a joy to read, and its message of finding beauty in imperfection is a timeless one that continues to resonate with readers today.

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