“Delight in Disorder” - an appreciation for less than perfection:
In “Delight in Disorder” by Robert Herrick the Title tells us that the author is to be delighted in his following statements of disorder. The authors word choice “kindles in clothes a wantonness” shows us the speaker sensual pleasure in viewing this person whom he sees having a “sweet disorder. “ “A fine distraction” he thinks as he refers to the shawl this person is wearing, he finds it appealing and agreeable to look upon this person. The words disorder, thrown, erring lead me to believe that maybe she is a saloon type girl. As the imagery of this loose thrown together, disorderly object of desire seems to not be describing a perfected style of a so called finer person. Or maybe it is a youthful person whom is not perfected in their style. The word enthralls is one of several words which shows he feels powerless over his perception of her. “A cuff neglectful….ribbons to flow confusedly,” He finds her interesting to look upon and to think about. The fact that things are not completely in order provokes an interest in her. Her clothing very much provokes his desire. He notes her wave as winning and deserving, viewing her alone has set his mind on her but he is aware that it is temptation which calls him to look upon her and does not wish to fight against it, but instead relishes in and enjoys to be “bewitched.” He would rather look upon a person with qualities of imperfection openly displayed or seen, than to look at someone seemingly perfect by their way of appearance.
The poem is reflecting on the visage of a woman in a disheveled state. Comprised of 14 lines, the first eleven are spent describing the state of the image being beheld. This description is heavily laden with imagery of confusion and disorder: “An erring lace” (line 5), “A cuff neglectful” (line 7) and “…the tempestuous petticoat” (line 10) are a few examples. The first eleven lines also detail the effects that this disorder is having upon the poet (though this is focused on to a lesser extent than the descriptions of disorder itself). “…A fine distraction” (line 4) and “A winning wave deserving note” (line 9) are two examples here.
The final three lines tie the description of the first eleven lines together. To paraphrase the work as a whole: ‘your disorder and disheveled state bewitches me more than precision ever will.” To do this he contrasts her with a piece of art that “is too precise in every part” (line 14). The disheveled nature comes out the victor of this comparison – he is saying that in her wanton state, she is more bewitching than if she had been precisely dressed.
This twist is interesting. From it, we can infer that he considers this wantonness to be a step closer to perfection than precision is. Here then it seems that we have arrived at somewhat of a contradiction. In theory, precision and perfection are symbiotic – for example, a house built with imprecise plans will be far from perfect, it is liable to collapse and crush its occupants, and a motor with imprecise construction runs a good chance of exploding. ‘Delight in Disorder’ seems to run against this grain. So what is he inferring? That we are not bound by logic? Obviously this is false: even if we deny and ignore it, we still face the logical consequences of doing so. He seems to be inferring that (with regards to humans) perfection is not found in precision; rather that perfection is instead found in a state of wantonness that brings her down to his level, to a level where he can access her. He seems to fear perfection for he fears that he cannot reach it, so delights instead in having it brought down to him.
I have no doubt that no questions of logic or symbiosis entered his mind when he was writing this poem. However, when people write or act, they often reveal more than they ever knew was subconsciously running through their mind. In saying what he has, that perfection and precision are separate, he has let on that he would rather destroy something that is (logically speaking,) perfect, rather than standing up to attain it at its zenith.