Upon Julia’s Clothes
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!
In six lines with a simple rhyme scheme (AAA BBB), Robert Herrick creates a feeling of intense passion. But who is the passion for? Is it for Julia or for Julia’s clothes?
Herrick gives us no clue. Would he find the clothes as attractive without Julia? Is it she who gives the clothes the characteristics Herrick finds appealing? It could be he burns with passion for Julia, an exquisitely beautiful woman who moves with such grace in fine silk fabrics that she endows them with the qualities of liquefaction, vibration, and glittering that “taketh” him.
On the other hand, maybe Julia doesn’t inspire his desire. It’s just the way she dresses, her choice of fabric and color that sends him into a reverie of the sort of woman he’d like to see in such fine silks.
Though Herrick refers to her as “my Julia,” she may be only a fantasy or a woman he observed and fancies he’d like to possess. The poem says more about infatuation with an aspect of a person’s being than about the person herself. Having experienced intense infatuation more than once, I understand the possessiveness the feeling engenders. I’ve also experienced the disappointment of learning that appearance is often more appealing than the actual experience of knowing the object of my interest.
The poem is intriguing because it fosters wild speculation. Is there a short story or a novel in this poem? I wonder.