Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast

Have ye beheld (with much delight)
A red rose peeping through a white?
Or else a cherry (double graced)
Within a lily? Centre placed?
Or ever marked the pretty beam
A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?
Or seen rich rubies blushing through
A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?
So like to this, nay all the rest,
Is each neat niplet of her breast.

by Robert Herrick

Comments (2)

I should have added that though certain ill-informed critics have construed the poem’s title as a red herring, this is clearly not the case, as anyone familiar with Herrick’s biography understands. The reality is simultaneously more involved and more prosaic, given that Herrick suffered from acute congenital myopia, forcing him to survey his mistresses at extremely close range. This, in turn, caused him to lose visual perspective and forget exactly what it was that loomed before his eyes – a form of cognitive “displacement” not markedly distinct from dyslexia, though with decidedly different etiology. Herrick’s condition (which Coleridge might have called an “unwilling suspension of disbelief”) led him into some strange byways. Thus, while nipples might hypothetically manifest themselves from a variety of anatomical contexts, it would be foolish to assume this in Herrick’s case, inasmuch as he was not a breast man. No, when the poet snuggled up to his girl, he was far more likely to turn to toes, navels, or, during the hibernal months, to noses. Hope this clarifies things.
Well, any idiot can see it’s about Julia’s big toe, probably her left, since Elizabethan scholars, particularly those schooled in post-Freudian analytics, know that Herrick had this fetish for toes, especially sinister ones. Either that or her omphalos (Julia having been a notorious navel-gazer, who occasionally passed out from excess concentration) .