(1648) When Robert Herrick wrote "Delight in Disorder," he followed the tradition that celebrated nature's "orderly disorder" and suggested that one might take pleasure from a disruption resulting in aesthetic chaos. His mentor, Ben Jonson, utilized that belief in the song "Still to be neat" from his drama Epi-coene, I.i. The song praises "Robes loosely flowing, hair as free," noting that "Such sweet neglect more taketh me, / Than all the adulteries of art." Herrick's speaker shares that sentiment, as he begins, "A Sweet disorder in the dress / Kindles in clothes a wantoness," then supports his opening statement by describing common articles of clothing in disarray. They include "A Lawne about the shoulders thrown / Into a fine distraction," as well as errant lace and "A cuff neglectfull, and thereby / Ribbands flowing confusedly." The subject matter supports a playful tone and the use of abundant alliteration to lend a songlike quality to the verse, as in 910, "A winning wave (deserving Note) / In the tempestuous petticote," lines also sexually suggestive, yet innocently expressed. Herrick includes an oxymoron in the phrase "wilde civility," in describing "A careless shoestring." His use of contradictory terms echoes that of the "orderly disorder" tenet he follows. He concludes his simple 14-line collection of rhyming couplets clarifying that such wild civility does "more bewitch me, then when Art / Is too precise in every part." The speaker seems to find most becoming that woman whose appearance predicts a loss of control. However, his final line notes that even such loss remains an art, suggesting that a woman may design such an appearance after all. It also suggests an additional oxymoron, "disartful art."
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