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
Enthrals the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands 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.
“Delight in Disorder” advocates the notion that true beauty lies in artlessness. According to the poet, structured artifice detracts from the accessibility of genuine, natural beauty. A woman free of fastidious adornment is thus more captivating, just as art that is not “too precise in every part.”
These ideas are emphasized by the style Herrick employs in this poem. Though it is composed of fourteen lines, “Delight in Disorder” does not follow the strictness of the sonnet form. Rather, it includes near rhymes, such as “tie” and “civility,” placed against true rhymes, such as “art” and “part.” This imprecision underlines the poet’s interpretation of beauty.
Robert Herrick was an English poet and clergyman in the 17th century. Much of his stylistic inspiration stemmed from the poet Ben Jonson, in addition to classical Roman literature and late Elizabethan poems. He wrote over 2,500 poems, in both English and Latin, which touched upon the topics of love, the female body, spirituality, and philosophy.
“Delight in Disorder” was published in Herrick’s collection of poetry entitled Hesperides, in 1648.