ROBERT Herrick WAS GIVEN HIS FIRST PUBLIC COMPLIMENT, OR at least the first that has survived, when he was thirty-four years old. This was the year in which King James died, and the writer of an elegy called The Muses' Dirge felt that England's monarch should have been praised while he lived by some prominent poet,
Some Jonson, Drayton, or some Herrick.
Michael Drayton had never been an influential poet but he was always quietly respected, while Ben Jonson was by now the most important writer in England. It must have been very gratifying to be bracketed with two such men, and in fact it was the highest compliment that Herrick received during his lifetime.
It was not really true that King James had gone unpraised by the poets. Ben Jonson, for one, had written many lines in his honor and called him the "best of kings." But it was true that James was chiefly interested in poets who wrote on religious themes and that the men who wrote light, secular lyrics had more encouragement under his successor.
It is curious that this should have been so, since King Charles was a much more devout man than his father. James was a poor churchgoer, with a deplorable habit of talking and making jokes during the services, while Charles was a most "attentive hearer" at sermons. During his reign there were private prayers in the court both morning and evening, readings from the liturgy before dinner, and services in the royal chapel both Tuesdays and Sundays, "all good signs that God hath set him over this kingdom for a blessing."
Since Charles was so dedicated a member of the Church of