Upon Julia’s Voice

Robert Herrick

‘Upon Julia’s Face’ by Robert Herrick is beautiful poem that tries to capture the speaker’s adoration for the voice of a woman they love and admire.


Robert Herrick

Nationality: English

Robert Herrick was a 17th-century poet whose work was finally recognized in the 20th century. I

His poetry was, in the past, condemned for its sexual subject matter.

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: A romantic celebration of sublime vocal abilities

Themes: Beauty, Desire, Love

Speaker: An adorer of Julia

Emotions Evoked: Gratitude, Love for Her, Passion

Poetic Form: Ode

Time Period: 17th Century

Robert Herrick's poem offers an illustrious vision of auditory beauty that is rendered passionate and sublime through the poet's use of imagery and figurative language.

‘Upon Julia’s Voice is just one of the many passionate poems that Robert Herrick wrote about an unknown woman named Julia. Most scholars agree that because he never married or maintained any relationships, it is likely she was of fictitious design and not based on a real-life person. However, that doesn’t dampen the grandiose devotion and exceptionally torrid love that radiates from the various poems addressed to her.

This poem by Herrick serves as a celebration of Julia’s voice — highlighting its ethereal splendor and power. To this end, the poet employs an ornate array of imagery and figurative language to illustrate the aural luxuriance of her singing. This results in a profoundly affecting experience for the reader that overflows from its romantic exaltations of love and beauty.

Upon Julia's Voice
Robert Herrick

So smooth, so sweet, so silv'ry is thy voice,As, could they hear, the damn'd would make no noise,But listen to thee, walking in thy chamber,Melting melodious words to lutes of amber.


‘Upon Julia’s Voice’ by Robert Herrick is an impassioned poem in which a speaker gives praise to a woman’s singing voice.

‘Upon Julia’s Voice’ is a short poem written as a romantic ode to a woman named Julia whom the speaker is evidently infatuated with. It begins with a description of her voice, which is characterized as being so “smooth, so sweet, so silv’ry.” This leads the speaker to make the claim that if the “damn’d” could hear her beauteous vocals, they would be moved to silence even in their agony and despair.

Then the speaker describes some of the scenery, implying that they are listening to Julia as she sings from within her “chamber” (i.e., room). In the final line, they offer one final reverent image of her singing, imagining it “melting melodious words to lutes of amber.”

Structure and Form

‘Upon Julia’s Voice’ consists of a single quatrain with a rhyme scheme of ‘AABB’. The first three lines are written in iambic pentameter, while the poem’s fourth line is written in iambic hexameter.

Literary Devices

‘Upon Julia’s Voice’ uses the following examples of literary devices:

  • Auditory imagery: “So smooth, so sweet, so silv’ry is thy voice” (1); “lutes of amber” (4)
  • Auditory/visual imagery: “But listen to thee, walking in thy chamber” (3)
  • Simile: “As, could they hear, the damn’d would make no noise” (2)
  • Metaphor: “Melting melodious words” (4)

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-2

So smooth, so sweet, so silv’ry is thy voice,
As, could they hear, the damn’d would make no noise,

In the first two lines of ‘Upon Julia’s Voice, the speaker creates a divine image of the woman’s vocal abilities and their perception of them. Herrick uses auditory imagery to describe them as “smooth, so sweet, so silv’ry” (1) — a portrayal that alludes to their heavenly nature.

What is curious is the poet’s diction which utilizes adjectives typically reserved for other types of imagery: “smooth” (tactile imagery); “sweet” (gustatory imagery); and “silv’ry” (visual imagery). The purpose of which might be to accentuate the comprehensive beauty of Julia’s voice, as it is not restricted to just an aural appreciation.

In line two, the speaker makes a further claim to the blessed power of Julia’s voice. Through the use of simile, Herrick creates another compelling image that pictures the “damn’d” souls of hell being stilled to silence by her singing. The implication is that even in their eternal sorrow and punishment, they cannot help but be touched by its beauty. Elevating the voice of Julia to angelic heights.

Lines 3-4

But listen to thee, walking in thy chamber,
Melting melodious words to lutes of amber.

The speaker gushes ardently over the eponymous woman in the last two lines of ‘Upon Julia’s Voice’. Herrick uses both auditory and visual imagery to expand the scene beyond the priorly narrow focus on her voice: “But listen to thee, walking in thy chamber” (3). The added scenery implies the speaker is outside Julia’s room, listening covertly to her singing.

The poem’s last line frames it with one final description of her voice. Herrick uses a combination of metaphor and auditory imagery to leave a lasting impression of Julia upon the reader. The speaker describes it as “melting melodious” (4), an image that emphasizes the lyrical quality of her words. At the same time, the second half of the line — “lutes of amber” (4) — compares her vocal cords to a rich-sounding instrument.


What is the theme of ‘Upon Julia’s Voice?

The poem’s theme is an ardently romantic appreciation of a woman’s voice. One that revels in the divine beauty and power it wields while also highlighting the speaker’s intense love.

Why did Robert Herrick write ‘Upon Julia’s Voice?

Herrick wrote the poem as an ode to the woman whose name graces the title. It celebrates the inherent beauty of her singing and the heavenly nature of the music of human vocals.

Who is Julia?

Herrick addressed a number of his poems to the woman named in this one. They include ‘Upon Julia’s Breath, ‘Upon Julia’s Breasts, and ‘Upon Julia’s Clothes, to name just a few. Although they were most likely not based on any particular person, they burn fervently and sensually in awe over her. It is most likely that Julia was Herrick’s imagined ideal for a woman.

What does the speaker mean by comparing Julia’s voice to “amber”?

The original poem contains this footnote regarding diction: “Amber, used here merely for any rich material.” It also provides an example from another Herrick poem titled ‘To The King And Queen Upon Their Unhappy Distances,’ which also uses the phrase: “Treading on amber with their silver feet.”

Similar Poems

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Robert Herrick poems. For example:

Poetry+ Review Corner

Upon Julia’s Voice

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.

Robert Herrick

This short poem by Robert Herrick is just one of a series that explores the poet's rapt adoration of a woman named Julia. Like this poem, they gush with romantic and impassioned imagery that serves to illustrate the poet and speaker's infatuation. The result is a beautiful poem that lauds nothing but affectionate praise upon the voice of this unknown woman.
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17th Century

Herrick belonged to that category of poets who were not widely read or appreciated in their time. His most famous work, ‘To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time’, is still his most well-known, yet poems like this one reveal the variety of his ability to capture more than just carpe diem within his verse.
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Herrick was an English poet who wrote prolifically yet did not enjoy much recognition. Yet poems like this one reveal the longevity of the varied subjects of his verse, expressing a profound and arduous love for a woman that most scholars believe never existed. Despite this, it still manages to convey with such effect a splendid beauty.
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Beauty is a core theme found within Herrick's poem, expressed in the speaker's adoration and descriptions of Julia's voice. Other poems in the series focus on other aspects and representations of this beauty. But this one hones in on the lyrical wonder of her voice and is conveyed by the poet's euphoric use of auditory imagery.
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Desire is a major theme in the poem, as it is heavily implied by the speaker's own words that they are wracked with passion over Julia. This amorous need is defined by their reverence for the divinely euphonious quality of her voice. Some of the other poems in the series are much more sensual in their diction and imagery, while this one affords more restraint.
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Love is touched on within Herrick's poem. Although the exact extent of the speaker's feelings toward Julia is ambiguous, it would not be incorrect to infer there is more than just desire being expressed in their exultation of her voice. Other poems devoted to her do focus on her physical features, but here the speaker has eyes (or ears rather) for the beauty of her voice.
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One emotion that is somewhat implied is a sense of gratitude. After all, the poem is an ode to Julia's voice, which implies the speaker is thankful both exist at all. Herrick's lucidly affecting poetic voice even inspires those same feelings in the reader. The poem serves as a heartfelt expression of gratitude for someone who radiates such beauty.
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Love for Her

The poem inspires feelings of intense love that are entrenched in the speaker's adoration of their beloved's voice. The assumption that Julia was a creation of Herrick's imagination only makes the poet's exquisite expressions of such ardent love all the more impactful. Although one of the shorter poems in the series about Julia, it is also one of the more romantic.
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Passion is another emotion inspired by the poem. Much of this is conveyed by the fiery praise the speaker lauds upon Julia's voice. In a way, their words are an illustration of the very passion that her singing inspires. Herrick uses a compelling example of figurative language to underscore the divine ecstasy her voice can embody.
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It is fair to assume that judging by the speaker's words that they appreciate Julia and her beautiful voice, as the poem serves as an ode to both. That appreciation is also rooted in the speaker's passionate feelings of love toward her. The poem makes it clear that they believe her singing to be the most heavenly thing on earth.
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Beautiful Women

This poem is devoted to a beautiful woman whom the speaker idolizes from a distance. Yet their definition of beauty does not touch on her physical appearance so much as her vocal abilities. Other poems about Julia do directly celebrate parts of her body that the speaker adores. This one focuses on the aesthetic beauty of her singing.
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The central subject of the poem is Julia's voice, and the speaker's core illustration of it is through song. The entire scene of the poem revolves around them listening in secret to her singing, which completely enraptures them with its beauty. There is something timeless about this expression of enchantment through the musicality of a person's voice.
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Unrequited Love

The Julia whom Herrick writes about was most likely not a real woman but rather an embodiment of the poet's ideal companion. As a result, the poem functions as an expression also of unrequited love. All the poems about Julia are written from the perspective of someone admiring her from afar. This poem is no different as the speaker listens to her in secret.
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Herrick's poem resembles a traditional ode, one composed in veneration of the titular Julia's voice. Although on the shorter side, it is still a beautiful example of this form, one that radiates with impassioned imagery and figurative language. It is hard to believe that the poet conjured up everything, including the woman in his imagination.
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Herrick wrote a variety of poems, and there exists quite a few that reveal his romantic side. The poems that are addressed to Julia constitute some of his most amorous work. This one is a great example of their attempt to capture all the passion and love that the radiant woman of his dreams might elicit for him.
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Steven Ward Poetry Expert
Steven Ward is a passionate writer, having studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and being a poetry editor for the 'West Wind' publication. He brings this experience to his poetry analysis on Poem Analysis.

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