‘His Return to London’ by Robert Herrick is a twenty line poem that is contained within one block of text. The lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABBCC, and so on, changing end sounds as the poet saw fit. Herrick also makes use of a consistent number of syllables throughout, all twenty lines contain ten.
Some of these rhymes are less perfect than others. For example, “fly” and “nativity” require one to alter their pronunciation in order to make the words rhyme. Otherwise, they are half or slant rhymes. This means that the words are connected due to a similarity in assonance (vowel sounds) or consonance (consonant sounds).
There are a number of instances within the text in which Herrick makes use assonance. For example, in line three with the words “thee” and “nativity.” Due to the similarity in their long “e” sounds these two words are also an example of internal rhyme. There other examples of perfect rhyme within the lines as well, such as in line fifteen with “me” and “be”. There are also other less obvious examples, such as in line eleven with the words “am” and “Roman”.
Summary of His Return to London
The speaker begins ‘His Return to London‘ by stating that he is on a journey from the west to the east. This is a trip that he is relishing. It is taking him from somewhere dark and dreary, to somewhere bright and pregnant with possibility. In fact, London is so special to him, that he sees it as a place of nativity. It is important to him, just like one’s spiritual or religious beliefs would be.
In the next lines, he celebrates the fact that there are so many different kinds of people in the country. At the same time, he speaks directly to the citizens telling them that London is his home, but something happened that sent him into banishment. Now, he has been called back to his country. He is ready to remain there permanently until he dies. He feels that this will not be too long from now, and hopes that he can be buried in the London ground.
Analysis of His Return to London
From the dull confines of the drooping west
To see the day spring from the pregnant east,
In the first lines of ‘His Return to London’, the speaker begins by describing the place from which he is coming. He is traveling from “the dull confines of the drooping west
This describes the speaker’s last place of residence somewhere in the western part of England, or even further west, in another country. As he journeys along towards London, he celebrates the fact that as he gets closer he can see “the dayspring from the pregnant east”. This is of course referring to the rising of the sun. It springs up in the east and droops down in the west. His preference for these two places is clear.
He sees the east as a place of brightness, and the west is somewhere dull. A reader should also take note of the fact that he describes the east is pregnant. This is a reference to the unlimited possibilities he sees in this area of the world. London, to the speaker, is a place where things can happen.
Ravish’d in spirit, I come, nay more, I fly
To thee, blest place of my nativity!
Thus, thus with hallow’d foot I touch the ground,
With thousand blessings by thy fortune crown’d.
He goes on to say that he is “ravished in spirit”. He is so excited by all the possibilities that await him, it is as if his body has been racked and ravished. This is a word that is also used in connection to sex. Therefore, also relates to the use of the word pregnant in the second line. The speaker also describes how he is flying to London, rather than simply traveling there. He is so excited, he feels he is moving through the sky like a bird. In the fourth line he refers to London as his place of “nativity.” To the speaker, his journey to London is like a religious pilgrimage. It is of religious importance.
In the fifth line of ‘His Return to London’ he states that the ground his foot touches when he arrives in London is “hollowed”. This connects directly to the idea that London is spiritually important to him. Then, in the sixth line, there is a reference to a crown. Again, this has religious connotations. But, it also has secular ones, as London is the seat of the English monarch. In the next lines, it becomes clear that the speaker has a very idealistic image of what Landon is.
He believes that it is a place of “everlasting plenty”. It seems to him, that “year-by-year” this place is filled with everything one could need. It is not just the city he is interested in, it is the people as well. This can be seen through the two “O” statements.
O fruitful genius! that bestowest here
An everlasting plenty, year by year.
O place! O people! Manners! fram’d to please
All nations, customs, kindreds, languages!
I am a free-born Roman; suffer then
That I amongst you live a citizen.
In this section of ‘His Return to London‘, the people that the speaker celebrates, are not just Londoners, or even English or British. They are “all nations, customs, kindreds, languages!” It does not matter who you are, in London, you can become a citizen and kin. It is a place of manners, and one which was made by a “fruitful genius”. Considering the religious connotations of the previous section, it is likely that the speaker is referring to God here. Or alternatively, those he assumes are the greater architects of the city’s social structure.
London my home is, though by hard fate sent
Into a long and irksome banishment;
Yet since call’d back, henceforward let me be,
O native country, repossess’d by thee!
The next lines of ‘His Return to London‘ paint the speaker as something of an outsider. He sees Landon as his home, but has been gone for a period of time. In the 13th line, he describes how some “hard fate” sent him into banishment. It was definitely not something that he relished. It was “long and irksome”. Luckily for him though, he has been called back. In these lines, he addresses the country itself. Asking that he be allowed to remain, and be “repossess’d”.
For, rather than I’ll to the west return,
I’ll beg of thee first here to have mine urn.
Weak I am grown, and must in short time fall;
Give thou my sacred relics burial.
In the last four lines of ‘His Return to London’, he sets up the stakes of his residency there. Still addressing the country, he says that he would rather die, than “to the west return”. He ends by stating that he has grown old and weak. He knows that he is not far from death, and therefore asks that he be allowed to remain in a place that he loves. The speaker hopes that when he dies that his “secret relics” are buried within the soil.