‘Cleanly-Wantonnesse’and Puritan Legislation: the Politics of Herrick's Amatory Ovidianism

Pugh, Syrithe
October 2006
Seventeenth Century;Autumn2006, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p249
Academic Journal
Amid growing recognition of the royalism of Herrick's Hesperides , the political implications of his use of classical imitation have been neglected. A striking example is to be found in the volume's many translations and imitations of Ovid's erotic elegies. Herrick sets up an analogy between Ovid's defiance of Augustus' laws against adultery in the Ars amoris and his own opposition to the Puritan regime, whose Bill ‘for the suppressing of adultery and fornication’ was being debated as Hesperides was prepared for press. Ovid's redefinition of Romanitas as epitomized by refined cultus and moral freedom, rather than by the austerity and virtue ascribed by Augustus to primitive Rome, is an essential intertext for Herrick's treatment of art versus nature, centered on an aesthetic of ‘wild civility’ combining courtly refinement with transgressive sexuality, an aesthetic also intimately bound up with Herrick's Ovidian ideas about the nature and purpose of imitative poetry.


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