Week 5 Assignment
- Julia Wakeling
Feb 26, 2000
It's late because AOL has been booting me off all week. Hope I can finish
this before it boots me off again.
Summery of selected poems by Robert Herrick.
After going through the listings of contemporary writings, my eye fell on
these few poems about Julia, so of course I had to write about these. In the
first poem "Art Above Nature: To Julia." I interrupted his words to be
extremely sensual. Herrick first speaks of Julia's hair and what a sight it
is to behold; she must have had long dark or auburn hair. Then he describes
her face as looking like a flower garden in its loveliness. This is where I
think Herrick gets Kinky..... I interrupt the next few lines as her genital
area, "When I behold another grace, In the ascent of curious lace,"; the man
is definitely letting his lusty thoughts wander. He then makes mention of her
beautiful head of hair, and I think he prefers it loose and flowing to
compliment the next item, "lawny films" ( which is probably her chemise). I
think Robert Herrick loves seeing this women in a state of half dress,
looking like she is ready for a tumble in a wheat field, meadow or forest
floor with the wind blowing her clothes and hair in a spectral splendor.
Because in the second poem, "Upon Julia's Clothes." Herrick states how sweet
Julia looks, as her clothing molds to her body, and that his body pulses with
each eye catching movement she makes.
The final poem I read is "Julia's Petticoat." If you had any reservations
about the man's lusty thought, this poem would convince you that Robert
Herrick was a Horny Old Bugger! He starts this poem by informing the reader
that he loves watching Julia move about in her blue azure robe, no doubt with
her petticoat showing up the front. He admits to the wanderings of his mind
and I think he makes a reference at mid-poem that he would like to be under
her skirts, as he refers to them as a "celestial canopy". If Herrick could,
he would fling conventional thought aside and have Julia anyplace and feel
like he was dying with delight. But no, calmer heads prevail, and he has to
be content with only his lusty thoughts for the time being.
My interruption of this man's "ideas" on clothing, is that he would
prefer seeing women, or at least Julia, in a careless, tosseled state of
half-dress. But that is my opinion of one 17th century Episcopal minister's
after having read three of his poems.
Tried to post this earlier but hit the wrong button, I think. Here's an updated version using a different source text...
For the purposes of this report I focused on a Puritan tract written by William Perkins in 1616. The tract, entitled The Right, Holy and Lawful Use of Apparel, is part of Perkins' book Cases of Conscience. As a secondary source I referred to a similarly conservative Protestant broadsheet, To Defend the Head From The Superfluity of Naughtiness, sold in London in 1688.
In England, in the 16th Century, the Puritan movement gathered strength. Its growing influence culminated in the English Civil War, in which the Puritan "Roundheads", their nickname a derisive allusion to their anti-fashion, pudding bowl haircuts, reigned victorious against the King Charles' Cavaliers.
This report is too short to examine in any detail the multitude of viewpoints and philosophies contained within the broader Puritan doctrine. However, judging by the two texts cited above as reference, it is fair to say that one of its pressing concerns was the alignment of dress with "proper" morality.
In William Perkins' tract several key moral values repeatedly crop up. These are; honesty, modesty, a respect for the natural order of things, frugality (as opposed to vanity) and dignity. Appropriate apparel in his view must preserve these values at all times. In the context of his beliefs areligious and the cultural and political climate of the time, shifting gender and class roles in particular, it makes sense that honesty and a respect for a natural, Godly order would refer to the necessity for men and women to wear clothing that clearly demarcates their sex and "place" or station in the world. The notion of honesty in William Perkins' text also encompasses rejecting accessories and ornaments that conceal a person's "natural" appearance as unChristian:
For example: that apparel is necessary for Scholar, the Tradesman, the Countryman, the Gentleman; which serveth not only to defend their bodies from cold, but which belongs also to the place, degree, calling, and condition of them all.
Here comes to be justly reproved, the strange practice and behavior of some in these days, who being not contented with that form and fashion which God hath sorted unto them, do desire artificial forms and favors, to set upon their bodies and faces, by painting and colouring; thereby making themselves seem that which indeed thay are not. This practice is most abominable by the very light of Nature, and much more by the light of God’s Word; wherein we have but one only example thereof, and that is of wicked Jezabel, II Ki 9:30 who is noted by this mark of a notorious Harlot, that she painted her face. For what is this, but to find fault with God’s own workmanship?
Both quotes, The Right and Holy Use of Apparel.
Although Perkins makes no direct reference to popular clothing of the day his stern admonishment against those who by "all means and ways to follow the fashion, and to take up every newfangled attire...from abroad" surely refers to wealthier English men and women who followed early 17th century trends, many imported from Catholic Europe. These included elaborately slashed and ribboned garments, hooped dresses covered with voluminous amounts of fabric and large, decorative lace ruffs.
During the 17th Century another prevalent fashion was for men to grow their hair long. This was in direct opposition to the Puritan notion of adhering to a "natural" (gender) order in all areas including dress and it is stridently criticised in another tract, To Defend the Head From The Superfluity of Naughtiness, which singles out men who...
do [II Cor. 6.3,6.] on the contrary, opposite to Purity or Pureness, give an evil Example to the Believers, in walking in the shame to their Nature, either in suffering their Locks to grow long, and othersome in wearing the Locks of Women in Perriwigs, contrary to the express [Ezek. 44.20] Word of God and light [I Cor. 11.14] of Nature, whereby they have chang’d the natural use, into that which is against Nature; which is a great dishonour to God our Creator, and shameful reproach and disgrace to the Christian Religion, as shall by the help of God be made to appear; and that this evil being winkt at by the Ministers, is the inlet to many other evils in the Churches of God.
Bear in mind that this later tract was distributed at a time (1688) when the role of women in society was drastically shifting, as evidenced by the power and influence exerted by royal Mistresses of the period. This may explain its alarmingly literal, fire and brimstone tone especially in regard to its views on the so-called meeker sex:
hence saith the Apostle, Is it comely for a woman to pray unto God with her head, to wit, her hair, uncovered [I Cor. 11.13.]? and Solomon said he saw a Woman with the Attire of an Harlot [Prov.7.10.]; what can this be but the Woman's laying out her hair for adorning; which the Apostle saith is an act of shamelesness and immodesty. Now the place where this Attire of an Harlot is set forth, is on the forehead; and this is proved by a borrowed speech the Prophet taketh from the practice of common Harlots, when he charged Judah with her imperious spiritual Whoredoms, as it is written, She had a Whore's forhead, as one not ashamed [Jer. 3.3.]: Now shall Christian Women do that act or thing that shall represent them immodest in the face of the Church?
By now most fashionable women in England wore their arms bare and their hair uncovered. Standards of morality and decency were changing along with the prevailing political systems of the day and this could account for the more virulently fundamentalist approach of the second tract, whose dogmatic interpretations of Christian texts seem rooted in an anxiety about widespread cultural and social change including influences from "abroad".
In retrospect the serious implications both texts attach to sartorial "trangressions" of Godly values seem excessive, almost comical. But it is a measure of fashion's ability to reflect, initiate and absorb changes in all areas of society that their authors paid such attention to what might seem a frivolous topic. Their fight about fashion was a fight over identity, religious, social and cultural, not limited to a defence of "Englishness" from what they saw as scurilous foreign influences.