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Featured Poem: Delight In Disorder by Robert Herrick

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 29th November 2010

Being a perfectionist is hard work. I came to this conclusion some time ago, yet it has made not any difference to the fact I will still go out of my way, travel the long way round and make a lot of hard work for myself to achieve what is, a considerable amount of times, the impossible. Completely illogical. I take consolation from the notion that, even if I drive myself slightly crazy in the process, pouring all of my energy into each individual act undertaken is generally a positive thing. Still, there’s a fine line between effort and setting yourself up for a fall.

And quite often, there is something waiting to trip me up, little obstacles littering my path which I’m always oblivious to until it’s too late. It’s entirely possible that this is the world’s way of either pointing and laughing in my face as I trundle along (I am usually inclined to think in such a frame of mind) or, to put another semi-positive spin on it, telling me to relax a little. There is one particular area where, no matter how much I may try, I can often end up tying myself in knots (not literally) in my pursuit for perfection; my personal appearance. Now, though I take an interest, I don’t profess in any way to being a fashionista, and while I do care what I look like – without being completely superficial – I don’t think pride is the sin that epitomises my life (that would more likely be envy…or sloth, which may also go some way to explaining these small but quite significant blunders). Still, I’m not one of those girls who can seemingly roll out of bed in the morning with that barely-cobbled-together- chic that could come straight out of the pages of Vogue, and so I go that extra mile. And generally I do look okay. But then come those gaping wide traps, those annoyances that leave me less polished and more slightly peculiar. It seems, despite my perfectionist nature, I just can’t help being clumsy. Things that have most recently spoiled my look have included massive amounts of moulting fluff from an oversized scarf covering me and refusing to budge, even when armed with a de-fluffing device; splodges of make-up landing in my lap and staining various pairs of jeans and trousers, and most embarrassingly, getting off the bus and discovering the tights I had pulled on that morning had degenerated into a rather large hole on the inside of my leg (not as embarrassing as some other clothes-related mishaps, admittedly, but still causing me to walk in rather a strange fashion). I think maybe I should admit defeat and realise I’m not as stylish as I wish to be...

My disappointment is quelled somewhat by reading this poem by Robert Herrick, which rather conveniently is all to do with matters of dress (or perhaps, matters of undress). Yet I think the heart of its message can be applied to any situation in modern life, where the curse of perfectionism can be all too prevalent; perhaps we should throw caution to the wind more often, be not so precise…a little bit of disorder here and there about the little things can be good for keeping the more important things in order. And it’s also quite reassuring if you’re having one of those days when everything seems to be in disarray. Perfection is not just unachievable but entirely overrated.

Delight In Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

2 thoughts on “Featured Poem: Delight In Disorder by Robert Herrick

'a reader' says:

Here’s Keats: delightfully serious about the curse of perfection –

On the Sonnet

If by dull rhymes our English must be chained,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fettered, in spite of painéd loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrained,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gained
By ear industrious, and attention meet;
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay-wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own

Thank you Robert Herrick and John Keats – Makes me feel a whole lot better about ‘going out to impress’ only to find out later I have a hem undone, odd socks on or a huge hole in my best jumper, or valiantly trying to fit into a jacket that’s somehow got itself upside down.

f.j. says:

Could this excuse accidental spelling mistakes – you know – when in the midst of excited ‘musing’ etc? Possibly even grammatical disorderliness?

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