« Philip Roth's American Pastoral | Main | The All-Time Most Tired Movie Cliche »

February 13, 2008


Horace Sasass

The critic, whom so ever he/she may be, has over thought this one. When Julia puts on her nightgown, and then lets it fall or flow over her skin, her breasts and buttocks as thought it were a liquid garment flowing to the floor at her feet, she steps over it and the vibrations of her various attributes are seen much like a glitter or shimmer, that vision beckons the fellow, as it has done to countless fellows through out history. The ladies know it and are really good at this ploy of seduction. GOD Bless 'em. I can hardly sit still as methinks about her. The critic is pulling your leg.


I respectfully disagree with the idea that the naked human form does not glitter. I'm afraid it does, when it is moist with perspiration. You may nay say the pretense of bawdy behavior, but he would not be the first metaphysical poet to nod merrily at the idea. Donne was equally suggestive about the ability of a flea to be a stand in.


Imho the brave vibration makes clear what liquefaction of the clothing means. Some women have such loose-jointed buttocks (w the Mende of W Africa, it was the norm and a mother's duty to make sure her daughter's would so move, but it is all too rare in most cultures)that they would be sexy walking in a mumu or a potato sack. To liquify means to make the clothing appear less solid or virtually disappear (in Japan where that is very rare, there was the legendary maiden who could be seen through her clothes)and we may even imagine a transparent stream, which also glitters in the light. Still, "glitter" is puzzling. With "take" the lure/fishing metaphor may be part of it, but i cannot help wondering re its closeness to the yiddish roots of glitch and whether it is meant partly to work as mimesis combining some slip/gliding and twitch.


Can you please provide a proof that links the meaning of word 'vibration' to the shaking of a spear or a sword in order to evoke a sense that vibration was used as an aggressive term rather than lovely?
I quoted you ('"Vibration" was brand-new to the language when this poem was written and the Latin word from which it had recently been annexed meant "shaking" -- as a spear or a sword is shaken in defiance of the enemy. "Vibration" was more aggressive than it was lovely."') in my essay paper, but I need to link your quote to the actual source that can confirm its validity. I would greatly appreciate your help.

(Please, you don't have to publish this comment, I couldn't find a way to contact you, so I'm using the comment section. If you can, please write me back in my email id- [email protected])

H.W. Collins

Yes, when I was introduced to the poem in 1975, grade 10, it was pointed out, and forever in my psyche will remain, that Julia is walking naked, or at least bare-breasted, covered by silken or at least shimmering, garments.

I became physically warm by the description and looked around to see if any of my classmates were feeling it too. Alas, I was the only one that I could tell was having such a wonderful reaction.

This remains my favourite look.


Wallace Rees

Seems to me that one might misread this poem unless one has also read "Upon Julia's Breasts" by this supposed A-sexual 80 year-old bachelor.

Upon Julia’s Breasts
By Robert Herrick

Display thy breasts, my Julia, there let me
Behold that circummortal purity;
Between whose glories, there my lips I’ll lay,
Ravished in that fair Via Lactea.

Ahh yes....now we know what he is thinkin.' Same as me. Via Lactea indeed.

Jim Rainey

Ah, T & A; how that glittering taketh me.
Jim Rainey, a bawdy poet.

Vivian de St. Vrain

Jim Rainey belongs to the T & A school of literary criticism.

Jim Rainey

The poet is excited over Julia's buttocks. These are the source of the "brave vibration" by "each" cheek. If he could, Herrick would have declared,"Oh, how that ass taketh me!" My other interpretation is that Herrick is taken by Julia's breasts, which also could vibrate "each way free." Ah, yes, he was obviously "standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by." Posted by: Jim Rainey

Eva Burkowski

Serious scholars have put forward the fishing lure interpretation of this poem and thus I accord it respect; but another aspect, related to David Graham's comment, has long occupied me. There seems a contrast implied between stanza one, in which the poet makes a general comment about what it is like whenever Julia walks around in silks, and stanza two ("Whenas..." vs. "Then..."). Now he actually looks at her and sees--what? What is implied by "brave vibration each way free" that is any different from "liquefaction of her clothes"? I too have wondered whether the phrase "each way free" might indicate the dress was being opened (unpinned from its stomacher at right and left, presumably, and thus free on each side). The contrast would be between the woman walking clothed in silk, and the woman framed in silks. (But she would not be naked, but wearing her chemise, surely; but the glittering needn't be her body or chemise so much as the framing silks, captivating because of what they frame.) Too far-fetched? He would have made the situation more obvious, as others poets have? If this isn't the contrast meant, then what is? He was presumably looking closely in stanza one, as well as two. Perhaps he is looking at something else; has she stopped walking? Are the silks vibrating because she is breathing or laughing, or have her skirts spread out on each side because she is seated?
I feel I am missing something; a lot, no doubt.... But it is a luscious little poem (I hear you, Mr. Collins!), and fishing lures or not, I have always read Herrick's persona as happy prey, entranced and eager, whether or not he plans any action, or just loves thinking about it.
As for depth of interpretation, not every poet is a Donne writing "The Baite", inviting subversive readings in many layers. And Julia's allure in that silk dress would clearly have hooked a saint.

John E. Collins

The words of this poem evoke, even in myself, an eighty-one year old bachelor, memories I am glad to review.

Vivian de St. Vrain

David Graham's interpretation is comfortable, in the sense that he finds the expected progress from clothed to unclothed, but it's not supported by the evidence. Naked bodies don't "glitter" unless artificially enhanced by digital techniques. The poem does make some progress: the first three lines are about the clothes swishing and the next three about the poet looking -- but it's fanciful to suppose that Herrick will move from scoptophilia to action.

David Graham

Intriguing explication, but I think you miss something. I take the last line to refer not to Julia's clothes, but to Julia's naked self. "That glittering," which is even more potent than the shimmery clothes, is her body as she disrobes.

So, to crudely paraphrase, the poem "says": when Julia prances around in her silken clothes, it's mighty fine; but that's nothing compared to when she undresses. . . .


good one

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Blogs I Read