Thursday, October 4, 2012

13: George Herbert (1593-1633), ‘the finest expressions of Anglican piety at its best’

“George Herbert (1593-1633) at Bemerton” (William Dyce, 1860)

Patrick Comerford


George Herbert (1593-1633) was a Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest. The poet Henry Vaughan described him as “a most glorious saint and seer.” The Puritan Richard Baxter was moved to say: “Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books.”

George Herbert was a skilled priest, poet and teacher, and an accomplished musician, who in his poetry brings together poetry, music and architecture. His spirituality is the Anglican Via Media or Middle Way par excellence. His poetry is constantly evident of the intimacy of his dealings with God and his assurance that, alone in a vast universe, he is held safe by the Crucified Christ.

Although he is not included in Alister McGrath’s collection, The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998), Herbert, along with John Jewel, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes, had a profound influence on the Caroline Divines, including John Cosin and Jeremy Taylor, and he is ranked with John Donne as one of the great Metaphysical poets.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote of Herbert’s diction that “Nothing can be more pure, manly, or unaffected.” The poet laureate WH Auden wrote of him: “His poetry is the counterpart of Jeremy Taylor’s prose: together they are the finest expressions of Anglican piety at its best.”

Herbert’s life

George Herbert was born on 3 April 1593 in Montgomery Castle in Wales, the seventh of 10 children in an eminent, intellectual artistic and wealthy Welsh landed family. When the first folio of Shakespeare’s plays was published in 1623, it was dedicated to Herbert’s kinsmen, “the most noble and incomparable pair of brethren,” William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery.

George Herbert’s mother Magdalene (nee Newport) was a patron and friend of John Donne, who dedicated his Holy Sonnets to her, and of other poets. His older brother, Edward Herbert, later Lord Herbert of Cherbury, was an important poet and philosopher, often referred to as “the father of English deism.”

Herbert’s father, Richard Herbert, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, died in 1596, when George was three, leaving a widow and 10 children. The poet’s mother was determined to educate and raise her children as loyal Anglicans. The family moved first to Oxford in 1599 and then to London in 1601, and George Herbert was tutored at home before entering Westminster School in 1604 at the age of 10.

The Dean’s Yard at Westminster Abbey ... as Dean, Lancelot Andrewes, took a particular interest in the school and was one of George Herbert’s teachers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In his first year at Westminster School, he came under the tutelage of Lancelot Andrewes, then the Dean of Westminster Abbey. As early as 1604, he penned Musae Responsoriae, later published in 1620, a collection of lightly satirical verses against the Presbyterian controversialist Andrew Melville.

In 1606, Herbert’s widowed mother, Magdalene, married Sir John Danvers, who was then only 20 but proved himself to be a benign and generous stepfather.

Trinity Lane, Cambridge, in the snow, with the walls of Trinity College on the right ... George Herbert was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

From Westminster School, Herbert went on to become one of three members of his family to win scholarships to Cambridge. On 5 May 1609, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he excelled in languages and music, and there he first considered becoming a priest. As his surviving letters reveal, Herbert’s time in Cambridge was marked by ill health and worries about money.

At Trinity he began both to write devotional poetry and his first two sonnets, sent to his mother in 1610, maintained that the love of God is a worthier subject for verse than the love of woman. His first verses to be published, in 1612, were two memorial poems in Latin on the death of Prince Henry, the heir apparent.

Trinity College Cambridge … George Herbert was elected a major fellow in 1618 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Herbert graduated first with the degree BA (Bachelor of Arts) in 1613. He became a minor Fellow of Trinity College in 1614 before proceeding MA (Master of Arts) in 1616, the year of William Shakespeare’s death. He was elected a major fellow of Trinity in 1618, and was appointed Praelector or Reader in Rhetoric at Cambridge.

In 1619, he was elected the Public Orator of Cambridge University. In this post, Herbert represented Cambridge at public occasions, writing and addressing formal official speeches in Latin to king and court and to visiting dignitaries and ambassadors. He described the post as “the finest place in the university,” and he continued to hold that post until 1628. Although the texts of three of Herbert’s public orations still exist, such as that written for the presentation of honorary degrees to two European ambassadors at Cambridge in 1622, we cannot be sure whether the English translations are Herbert’s own.

He spent some time away from Cambridge when he was MP for Montgomery in King James I’s last parliament in 1623-1624. A fellow MP at the time was Nicholas Ferrar, who was a contemporary of Herbert’s at Cambridge as an undergraduate at Clare Hall. However, a potentially promising parliamentary career was short and while a Mr Herbert is mentioned as a committee member, there is no record in the House of Commons Journal in 1625 of Mr George Herbert.

Herbert was ordained deacon in 1625 or 1626. By this time, John Donne was a close family friend, and when Herbert’s mother died in 1627 Donne preached the sermon at her funeral in Chelsea.

James I had shown favour to Herbert, and he appeared to be facing a successful career at the royal court. However, circumstances worked against him. The king died in 1625, and two of Herbert’s influential patrons, the Duke of Richmond and the Marquess of Hamilton, died around the same time.

However, after the death of King James and at the urging of a friend, Herbert’s interest in ordained ministry was renewed. He had been ordained deacon in 1624, and in 1626, while he was still a deacon, he was appointed Prebendary of Leighton or a canon in Lincoln Cathedral and became Rector of Leighton Bromswold, a small village in Huntingdonshire. Herbert was not even present at his institution as a prebend, and it appears he never resided in Leighton Bromswold, appointing two vicars to take charge of the parish. However, with the help of Nicholas Ferrar, he raised funds to refurbish the church, which had not been in use for 20 years. Ever since then, Saint Mary’s Church has two pulpits dating from 1626, attributed to Herbert’s emphasis that a parson should both pray and preach.

Herbert’s mother died in 1627, and John Donne preached at her funeral in Chelsea. Herbert resigned as university orator in 1627, and later he moved to Wiltshire. On 5 March 1629, he married Jane Danvers, a cousin of his step-father.

By then, Herbert had abandoned any lingering academic and political ambitions, and in 1630 was ordained priest in the Church of England. In 1630, he was presented to the living of Fugglestone with Bemerton, and was installed as rector on 26 April. On 19 September, he was ordained priest in Salisbury Cathedral, and he spent the rest of his life as a rector of the little parish of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton St Andrew, a Wiltshire rural parish near Salisbury and about 75 miles south-west of London.

In Bemerton, he preached and wrote poetry and helped to rebuild the church, drawing on his own funds. He was known too for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill, and providing food and clothing for needy parishioners.

In those three years, he came to be known as “Holy Mr. Herbert” around the countryside. His practical manual offering practical pastoral advice to country clergy, A Priest to the Temple (or The Country Parson) (1652), exhibits the intelligent devotion he showed to his parishioners. He tells them, for example, that “things of ordinary use,” such as ploughs, leaven, or dances, could be made to “serve for lights even of Heavenly Truths.”

On his deathbed, he sent the manuscript of The Temple to his friend, Nicholas Ferrar, who had founded the semi-monastic Anglican religious community at Little Gidding – a name best known today through the poem Little Gidding by TS Eliot. In his letter, Herbert said of his writings: “They are a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master.” He asked Ferrar to publish the poems if he thought they might “turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul,” but otherwise he should burn them.

Suffering from poor health, Herbert died of tuberculosis on 1 March 1633 at the age of 40, less than three years after being ordained priest. An inscription found in the Rectory at Bemerton after his death reads:

To My Successor:

If thou chance for to find
A new House to thy mind,
And built without thy cost;
Be good to the Poor
As God gives thee store,
And then my Labour’s not lost.

Another version reads:

If thou dost find
An house built to thy mind,
Without thy cost;
Serve thou the more
God and the poor;
My labour is not lost.

His first biographer, Izaak Walton, described Herbert on his deathbed as “composing such hymns and anthems as he and the angels now sing in heaven.”

The Temple was edited by his friend Nicholas Ferrar and was published in Cambridge later that year as The Temple: Sacred poems and private ejaculations. It met with such popular acclaim that it had been reprinted 20 times by 1680, and went through eight editions by 1690.

He is commemorated on 27 February throughout the Anglican Communion. There is a window honouring Herbert in Westminster Abbey and a statue of him in niche 188 on the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral.

Herbert as a country parson

Izaak Walton ... biographer of John Donne, Richard Hooker and George Herbert

Izaak Walton’s The Life of Mr. George Herbert, published in 1670, 37 years after Herbert’s death, traces his spiritual development and his career, dividing his life into two opposing halves: the first half full of worldly success – his brilliant mind, fine education, exalted social circle, and court ambitions – and the second half showing him turn away from the world to serve God, love the poor, and lead a life of “almost incredible” virtue.

As a result of Walton’s friendship with and great admiration for Herbert, the biography is far from objective, but it was influential in shaping the image of Herbert as a model of Christian piety and a model priest.

Herbert’s reputation as a firm rejecter of the vanities of the world – “like a saint, unspotted of the world” – is supported by Herbert’s own self-identification as a “country parson.” The term “country” at the time was often used in direct opposition to the court as well as to the city, so that the idea of a country “parson” or pastor implies someone in retreat, exile, or isolation from court and city life.

Herbert implicitly contrasts the ideal parson with the intellectual, with the poet, and with the courtier, preferring the parson’s emotional “patience, temperance ... and orderliness” to the poet’s clamours of the soul.

As a result, Herbert is often placed firmly and irrevocably on one side of the many great and enduring religious, moral and aesthetic debates – between Catholicism and Puritantism, court and country, feigning and integrity, ornament and plainness, difficulty and simplicity, and so on - which characterise the social and literary cultures of the Renaissance period.

Critical interest in Herbert’s poetry struggles in a debate about whether his voice is that of the philosopher or the country pastor. When Herbert is thought of as a parson, his poems may seem simple; when he is considered as a metaphysical, his poems may seem academic and complex.

George Herbert and Prayer

George Herbert at prayer ... a window in Salisbury Cathedral

Herbert was close to Nicholas Ferrar and the Community of Little Gidding, which showed that prayer, community life, and a life of discipleship and service ought to be inter-woven.

For Herbert, prayer is concerned not only with things heavenly, but also with the earthly. In his poem ‘Prayer,’ he writes:

Prayer, the Church’s banquet, Angels’ age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’Almighty, sinner’s tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The Milky Way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

In this poem, Herbert is saying that in prayer it is possible to be transported, even if momentarily, to another realm. “Angel’s age,” “the milky way,” and a “tune beyond the stars” suggest that prayer touches the infinite. The poem concludes with “something understood” – a profound but elusive encounter with the mysterious otherness of God.

George Herbert’s published works:

The manuscript of The Country Parson was the property of Herbert’s friend, Arthur Wodenoth, who gave it to Barnabas Oley. In 1652, Oley edited Herbert’s Remains, or sundry pieces of that Sweet Singer, Mr. George Herbert, containing A Priest to the Temple, or the countrey parson, and Jacula Prudentum. Oley also wrote an unsigned preface, but when the second edition appeared in 1671 as A Priest to the Temple or the Country Parson, Oley signed the new preface.

These collections were reprinted in later editions of Herbert’s Works, and the prefaces were a source for Izaak Walton’s biography.

Herbert’s Jacula Prudentium (sometimes seen as Jacula Prudentum), is a collection of pithy proverbs published in 1651, included many sayings still repeated today, such as: “His bark is worse than his bite.” His Outlandish Proverbs was published in 1640.

Herbert also wrote Greek and in Latin poetry. His Latin poems mainly concern ceremonial controversy with the Puritans, but they include a response to Pope Urban VIII’s treatment of the ROMA AMOR anagram.

Herbert’s Proverbs:

Herbert’s pithy proverbs in Jacula Prudentium (1651) include:

His bark is worse than his bite.

God’s mill grinds slow, but sure.

No sooner is a temple built to God, but the Devil builds a chapel hard by.

The offender never pardons.

It is a poor sport that is not worth the candle.

Help thyself, and God will help thee.

Words are women, deeds are men.

The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken.

A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees farther of the two.

George Herbert as poet

George Herbert ... Prayer, the Church’s banquet

Before his death in 1633, Herbert finished a collection of poems, The Temple, which imitates the architectural style of churches through both the meaning of the words and their visual layout. The themes of God and love are treated by Herbert as much as psychological forces as metaphysical phenomena.

In his deathbed letter to Nicholas Ferrar, Herbert described his writings as “a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master.” All his surviving English poems are religious, and some have been used as hymns. William Cowper said of them: “I found in them a strain of piety which I could not but admire.”

An example of Herbert’s religious poetry is The Altar. A “pattern poem” in which the words of the poem itself form a shape suggesting an altar, and this altar becomes his conceit for how one should offer himself as a sacrifice to the Lord. He also makes allusions to scripture, such as Psalm 51: 17, where it states that the Lord requires the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Herbert’s poems are characterised by directness of expression, precision of language, depth of religious devotion, agility and versatility in meter, and an ingenious use of imagery or conceits that may appear quaint today but were favoured at the time by the metaphysical poets. Many of his poems have intricate rhyme schemes, and variations of lines within stanzas described as “a cascade of form floats through the temple.”

They include almost every known form of song and poem, but also reflect his concern with speech – conversational, persuasive, proverbial. Carefully arranged in related sequences, the poems explore and celebrate the ways of God’s love as Herbert discovered them through his own experiences.

Herbert is as much an ecclesiastical poet as a religious poet, yet all sorts of readers have responded to his quiet intensity, and for many readers in recent decades, he has displaced John Donne as the supreme metaphysical poet.

George Herbert in his own words:

George Herbert … his poems were collected and published in ‘The Temple’ after his death, and many continue to be used as hymns

Easter, by George Herbert

Herbert’s poem ‘Easter,’ first published in The Temple shortly after his death, is a highly complex connotative poem that is often difficult to grasp.

This poem, in two parts, is an example of how Herbert’s poems sometimes take a double-poem organisation with two separate stanza forms – a structure he uses too in a companion poem, ‘Good Friday.’

‘Easter’ was originally written by Herbert as two separate poems, but the call in the first verse, ‘Rise heart; thy Lord is risen,’ and the musical images of verses two and three, find their fullest expression in the song of praise in the final three verses.

In this poem, Herbert addresses his heart as he prepares for Easter. Reflecting on the Resurrection, he is moved in the first part of the poem to compose a song (lines 1-18), and he then shares this song in the second part of the poem (lines 19-30). There is good reason to believe that Herbert intended the second, less formal part of this poem to be sung to the accompaniment of a lute.

As an accomplished player of the lute, Herbert was a fan of the works of John Dowland (1563-1626). According to the historian of the Diocese of Ferns, WH Grattan-Flood, Dowland was born in Dalkey, Co Dublin. Dowland’s ‘The Most Sacred Queen Elizabeth, Her Galliard’ (1610) – from Varietie of Lute Lessons, prepared by his son Robert Dowland – perfectly matches the meter and rhyming scheme of Herbert’s ‘Easter’ and may have been intended as the music to which it would be sung.

Reading the poem

In this poem ‘Easter,’ Herbert turns to his lute to assist him in song, and he draws on Scripture to illustrate the poem, drawing on words in Psalm 57: 8-10 and on the theme of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, with its exploration of how we are made right with God through Christ’s death on the cross. Herbert may be reflecting on Romans 6: 4, where we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection, being re-created into a new creation.

In line 5, “calcined” is a chemical term referring to the process where impurities are removed from precious metals, or the means reducing things lime or some other similar substance. In this case, Herbert is thinking of how at death our bones are reduced to chalk or our lowest commonest denominator, the dust of which we all are made.

In line 11 (“His stretched sinews”), Herbert pictures Christ’s arms stretched tight on the cross, like lute strings, which in Herbert’s days were made from the muscle fibres of animals. Sacred music was traditionally set to higher keys than secular music – and the tighter the string, the higher the pitch. Christ, stretched out in death on the wood of the cross, becomes God’s instrument, playing a melody of love to the world. The heart responds to the melody by joining with it, as instrumentalists join together in consort to make music. But since none can sing this tune perfectly, a further strand needs to be woven: that of the Spirit who makes up “our defects with his sweet art.”

Just as the wooden cross proclaimed Christ’s saving work, so Herbert’s wooden lute resonates with the same message.

In line 15, “three parts” refers to the fact that most chords have only three different notes that are repeated and multiplied at different octaves in different voices or instruments. Music is an art form that appeals universally through notes and pauses. Herbert’s identification of all music as but “three parts vied and all multiplied” recalls the Trinity, and how this relationship is played out in each of us. As a result, our cacophony becomes euphony as we are harmonised according to the interplay of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A chord of three is not easily broken, and is at its most mysterious yet vibrant in music.

Just as chords are fundamentally composed of triads, Herbert sees the worship of his heart and lute as incomplete without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes “up our defects with his sweet art” (line 18).

The heart responds to the melody by joining with it, as instrumentalists join together in consort to make music. But since none can sing this tune perfectly, a further strand needs to be woven: that of the Spirit who makes up “our defects with his sweet art.”

The change of structure in line 19 indicates the beginning of the song alluded to in line 1. In this song of joyful celebration, Herbert sees the day of Christ’s resurrection as unsurpassed in glory. “Can there be any day like this” (verse 19) – the sun that rises each day of the year cannot shine as brightly as the Son of God as he brings light to the world.

The first allusion in the song, in lines 19 to 22, is to Palm Sunday (see Mark 11: 8-9).

The second allusion, in lines 23 to 26, is to the women who brought spices to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning (see Mark 16: 1-2).

However, the Risen Christ does not need their gifts. In fact, all gifts offered to Christ – including the sun illumining the empty grave, and the Magi providing gold, frankincense and myrrh years before – pale in comparison throughout the year (the “three hundred” days in line 29) to the glory of the Resurrection. For this reason Herbert sees Easter as the definitive moment in human history.

And so, in this poem, Herbert helps us see the love that our Creator holds for his creation. If we read this poem as a contemplative prayer, we find we are encouraged to consider the art of living and dying, as God has done for us, and how we, through faith, do in him. Herbert renders God an instrument – and even God’s body an instrument – and reminds us that we are all included as potential participants in the Christ’s Resurrection, and not just as passive observers.


Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Easter Wings by George Herbert

‘Easter Wings’ in its original shape when the poem was first published in 1633

‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert (is a pattern poem in which the work is not only meant to be read, but its shape is meant to be appreciated by the reader. In this case, when the poem was first published in 1633, it was printed on two pages of a book, sideways, so that the lines suggest two birds flying upwards, with their wings spread out.

Herbert is using a form of poetry called carmen figuration, manipulating the overall shape of the poem to mimic its subject. In this way, he shapes both stanzas to look like wings when the poem is turned sideways, representing the ultimate flight of humanity when Christ claim his followers.

This style of writing poems with shapes that mirror their theme was adopted from the ancient Greeks and was popular when Herbert was writing in the early 17th century, with many poets adopting similar styles and forms of writing.

The shape of the poem represents a dying or falling, then rising pattern, which is the theme of the Easter story. The top half of each stanza focuses on the problems caused by human sin, while the bottom half reflects the hope made possible by Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. The wings may evoke also the angels present at the empty tomb on that first Easter morning (John 20: 12).

But Herbert also adopts other styles in this poem about the fall of humanity and the Resurrection of Christ. He uses capitalisation at the beginning of each line and punctuation at the end of most lines in ‘Easter Wings,’ so that each line stands on its own with a capital letter at the beginning. This method of form, together with hard punctuation, gives each line more stress. In this way, Herbert gains the reader’s attention and invites us to consider the importance of each single line.

In the first two lines, Herbert writes:

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same

urging us to see the significance not only to see the creation and fall of humanity by reading the lines together, but also to see the importance and truth of each line when it is read alone.

Another form used by Herbert is the delegation of meaning, or alliteration in the ending lines of each stanza. As this poem describes the rise and fall of humanity, Herbert places the word “fall” in the last line of Stanza 1 and the word “advance” in the last line of Stanza 2:

Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
... Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

In this way, he invites us to see that “flight” cannot be accomplished without first “falling.”

George Herbert’s response to the mystery of the Holy Trinity is a response of heart, mouth, and hands. In this poem, he is creative, evocative and imaginative in his use of Trinitarian images, prayers and motifs in rhymes, alliteration and ideas throughout the three stanzas, which give wonderful glimpses, prayers and insights into our Trinitarian faith.

The poem is a delightful use of word, rhythm and structure, inviting the reader to become familiar with the concept of three, reminding us of the threefold nature of God as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Each stanza is three lines long, and each is in triple rhyme.

Stanza 1 is a prayer of invocation, with Line1 addressing God the Father as Creator, Line 2 addressing God the Son as Redeemer, and Line 3 addressing God the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier. This stanza traces the decline of humanity. After their creation, Adam and Eve experience the wealth of God’s provision for them in the Garden of Eden, but they disobey God, eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

Expelled from the garden and alienated from God, they and their descendants are condemned to poverty and wretchedness. Rather than believing that humanity grows better and better through the centuries, Herbert reflects the view that humanity has enormous potential that has been wasted by turning away from God.

But there is hope. In the rising part of the stanza, Herbert talks of himself rising with Christ, like a lark that soars and sings in the spring, close to Eastertide.

The alliteration of “the fall further the flight in me” reinforces the paradox of the felix culpa or “happy fault” that teaches the fall of humankind actually had a positive outcome because it results in the coming of Christ to bring humanity into a new relationship with God. Herbert is now applying this hope to himself.

Stanza 2 is parallel in its form. It picks up a number of words and phrases from Stanza 1, and is more specifically autobiographical. This stanza is a confession. Line 1 refers to sins committed in the past, Line 2 to the present act of confessing, and Line 3 to the firm intention not to sin in the future.

Stanza 3 is an expression of expectation, and each line refers to three things. Line 1 speaks of heart, mouth and hands being enriched. Line 2 outlines that which will do the enriching – the three Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. Line 3 expresses a desire to run, rise and rest with God. In the third stanza, Herbert continues with three little triplets of petitions.

This second part becomes a prayer that his previous suffering may help the poet to fly even higher. “Imp” is a technical term in falconry, meaning to graft feathers on to a damaged wing to restore a bird’s power of flight. Herbert is asking to become one with Christ’s rising from the dead into new life and to soar towards heaven with him. He may have in mind two passages from the Bible (Isaiah 40: 31 and Malachi 4: 2) that link the idea of flight and the experience of God’s healing and renewal.

In the last lines of the poem (lines 17-20), Herbert expresses his view that humanity will eventually fly away with Christ:

Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

In these closing lines, Herbert tells us that if humanity “flies” on the same path as Christ, then our ultimate victory will be to fly up to where Christ dwells.

Easter Wings

‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert (1593-1633) ... a pattern poem in which the shape is meant to be appreciated by the reader

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

The Clock Tower, Trinity College Cambridge ... there is a triple Trinitarian invocation in the three lines: ‘Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me, / With faith, with hope, with charitie; / That I may runne, rise, rest with thee’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Trinitie Sunday, by George Herbert

In those poem, Herbert provides a triple Trinitarian invocation in the images, vocabulary and structures of each of the three stanzas.

In Stanza 1, it is provided by recalling that God has formed, redeemed and sanctified the poet.

In Stanza 2, the invocation is found in purging, confessing and striving.

In stanza 3, this triple Trinitarian invocation is more strongly emphasised in each of the three lines: ‘Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me, / With faith, with hope, with charitie; / That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.’

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
For I confesse my heavie score,
And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.

Sepulchre by George Herbert

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Round Church, on the corner of Round Church Street and Bridge Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Lichfield-born philosopher and writer Samuel Johnson was a pious and prayerful Anglican, but thought that prayer was too high and holy for poetry. Although Johnson knew of Herbert and Donne, he lived a century before poets like Christina Rossetti and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Nor could anyone fail to appreciate the intimate connections between faith, prayer and poetry in the life-work of TS Eliot.

Nevertheless, it is surprising how few poets have written about Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Day. Yet once there were so many churches on these islands called Holy Sepulchre or Saint Sepulchre, including the Round Church on the corner of Round Church Street and Bridge Street in Cambridge, and the former palace of the Archbishops of Dublin was known as the Palace of Saint Sepulchre.

Christ on the Cross, and Christ at the Resurrection, inspires the minds of great poets and artists, even those who doubted or turned away from Christianity. But few have been inspired by the image of Christ in the Tomb, or his descent into Hell – the great drama of the Harrowing of Hell – which is the subject of George Herbert’s poem, ‘Sepulchre.’

Louis Martin, Professor of English at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, in a paper in the George Herbert Journal (2000), points out that the final stanza in this six-stanza poem is the only one to consist of 33 syllables. Aptly, this reminds us of the age of Christ was at the time of his death and resurrection, which is the message of the final stanza: “Though it [the sepulchre, or the human heart] be cold, hard, foul,” it cannot “[w]ithhold” Christ from loving us.

Similarly, Sibyl Lutz Severance notes that George Herbert placed his poem “Sinne (II)” thirty-third in the 1633 edition of The Temple, in order to recall Christ’s age at the time of his death and resurrection.

Alastair Fowler argues that John Milton designed the length of the overall action of Paradise Lost – 33 days – to recall the length of Christ’s lifetime, and to correspond to Dante’s canto totals of books in the Divina Commedia.


Oh blessed body! Whither art thou thrown?
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone?
So many hearts on earth, and yet not one
Receive thee?

Sure there is room within our hearts good store;
For they can lodge transgressions by the score:
Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door
They leave thee.

But that which shows them large, shows them unfit.
Whatever sin did this pure rock commit,
Which holds thee now? Who hath indicted it
Of murder?

Where our hard hearts have took up stones to brain thee,
And missing this, most falsely did arraign thee;
Only these stones in quiet entertain thee,
And order.

And as of old, the law by heav’nly art,
Was writ in stone; so thou, which also art
The letter of the word, find’st no fit heart
To hold thee.

Yet do we still persist as we began,
And so should perish, but that nothing can,
Though it be cold, hard, foul, from loving man
Withhold thee.

Affliction, by George Herbert

‘My thoughts are all a case of knives, / Wounding my heart / With scattered smart …’ George Herbert’s consoling words recall a night of nightmares and prayers that turned to a beautiful day at High Leigh in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

George Herbert wrote five ‘Affliction’ poems. This is the fourth ‘Affliction’ poem and sometimes headed ‘Temptation.’ This is a poem of spiritual conflict and healing.

In the privacy of our own hearts and minds, on the most intimate level, we all deal with affliction, pain, criticism, loneliness, regret and fear.

I was reminded of this poem recently as I recalled a restless and sleepless night while I was at a conference in High Leigh, near Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire. I had been travelling since early morning, and had a busy working morning in Cambridge, before going on the conference that afternoon. Late at night, I realised I had forgotten to take my medication, prescribed for my sarcoidosis, with breakfast that morning. Anyone who has been prescribed steroids knows the dangers of taking them too late and night, and the fears and dreams that can come to the fore in our dreams.

I woke constantly, and was disturbed continually. But I was comforted throughout that night by the truth of the words of Compline we had prayed collectively that night before I went to bed:

Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That you, with steadfast love, would keep
Your watch around us while we sleep.

From evil dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Tread underfoot our deadly foe,
That we no sinful thought may know.

O Father, that we ask be done
Through Jesus Christ, your only Son;
And Holy Spirit, by whose breath
Our souls are raised to life from death
– (Common Worship, p. 82)

I awoke to a very pleasant morning and a fresh new day in the Hertfordshire countryside.

In this poem, Herbert gives voice to interior pain, to thoughts that are out of control, to helplessness in the face of anxiety. But in his honesty, we can see a way forward to hope.

However, he does not mention any external event at the root of his affliction. His entire focus is on the experience of suffering on the spiritual, mental and emotional level.

He reminds us that we are not in total control of our thoughts, and not all thoughts are good, true or helpful. He asks God to “dissolve the knot” of his fears and emotions, because he cannot do it for himself. Into the unruly conflict of his own mind, he invites God’s presence, because God’s light will “scatter” all the “rebellions of the night.”

Herbert concludes that life’s difficult journey, “day by day,” has God alone as its goal. If our thoughts can wound us, then God alone can heal us. God can subdue and calm our painful and rebellious thoughts, and he is the source of all Light.


Broken in pieces all asunder,
Lord, hunt me not,
A thing forgot,
Once a poor creature, now a wonder,
A wonder tortured in the space
Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
Wounding my heart
With scattered smart;
As wat’ring-pots give flowers their lives.
Nothing their fury can control,
While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife
Quitting their place
Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life:
The elements are let loose to fight,
And while I live, try out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
Kill them and me,
And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
As the sun scatters by his light
All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers which work for grief,
Enter Thy pay,
And day by day
Labour Thy praise and my relief:
With care and courage building me,
Till I reach heav’n, and much more, Thee.

Confession’ (O What a Cunning Heart), by George Herbert

During a visit to Edinburgh, I was reminded of the well-known maxim, “Confession is good for the soul,” which is an old Scottish proverb. But I was told that a word is missing. The proverb actually says: “Open confession is good for the soul.”

The Apostle Paul says: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10: 9).

In many parts of the Church of Ireland, there is a reluctance to accept Confession as an ancient practice of the Church, with Biblical and Patristic approval. Yet there is a well-known Anglican aphorism that says about Confession: “All may; none must; some should.”

For Anglicans, confession and absolution are usually a component part of corporate worship, both at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and in particular at the Eucharist.

In the The Book of Common Prayer, the ‘Order for the Visitation of the Sick’ includes the following direction: “Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special Confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which Confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it).”

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the US provides two forms for Confession in the section ‘The Reconciliation of a Penitent.’ Private confession was also envisaged in 1603 in Canon 113 in the canon law of the Church of England, which contains the following, intended to safeguard the Seal of the Confessional:

“If any man confess his secret and hidden sins to the minister, for the unburdening of his conscience, and to receive spiritual consolation and ease of mind from him; we ... do straitly charge and admonish him, that he does not at any time reveal and make known to any person whatsoever any crime or offence so committed to his trust and secrecy.”

Herbert’s poem ‘Confession’ (‘O What a cunning guest’) was published in his collection, The Temple, and look at his poem. If Confession is good for the soul, then Herbert found it was good for the priest too. In The Country Parson, he wrote:

“The Parson in his house observes fasting dayes; and particularly, as Sunday is his day of joy, so Friday his day of Humiliation, which he celebrates only with abstinence of diet, but also of company, recreation, and all outward contentments; and besides, with confession of sins, and all acts of Mortification.” (George Herbert, The Country Parson, Chapter 10, ‘The Parson in his House).

Confession (O What a cunning guest)

O what a cunning guest
Is this same grief! within my heart I made
Closets; and in them many a chest;
And, like a master in my trade,
In those chests, boxes; in each box, a till:
Yet grief knows all, and enters when he will.

No screw, no piercer can
Into a piece of timber work and wind,
As God’s afflictions into man,
When he a torture hath designed.
They are too subtle for the subtlest hearts;
And fall, like rheums, upon the tend’rest parts.

We are the earth; and they,
Like moles within us, heave, and cast about:
And till they foot and clutch their prey,
They never cool, much less give out.
No smith can make such locks but they have keys:
Closets are halls to them; and hearts, high-ways.

Only an open breast
Doth shut them out, so that they cannot enter;
Or, if they enter, cannot rest,
But quickly seek some new adventure.
Smooth open hearts no fast’ning have; but fiction
Doth give a hold and handle to affliction.

Wherefore my faults and sins,
Lord, I acknowledge; take thy plagues away:
For since confession pardon wins,
I challenge here the brightest day,
The clearest diamond: let them do their best,
They shall be thick and cloudy to my breast.

Lent by George Herbert

‘That ev’ry man may revel at his door’ (George Herbert, ‘Lent’) … the Classical Gate in the Jesus Lane wall of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Staying in Sidney Sussex College over many years has brought the privilege of being within strolling distance of most if not all of the major churches, chapels and colleges in Cambridge.

The Classical Gate in Sidney Sussex College was originally erected in Hall Court to replace the first main gate. During Wyatville’s alterations in 1832, the gate was moved to the north-east corner of the gardens, where it remains an eye-catching feature. But the gate must be closed permanently, for I have never seen it open into Jesus Lane, which forms the northern boundary of the grounds of Sidney Sussex.

Almost opposite the closed Classical Gate in Jesus Lane is Wesley House, which is also home to the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. And a little further on is Jesus College and, opposite it, on the same side as the Classical Gate, are All Saints’ Church and Westcott House.

George Herbert with Bishop Westcott and Henry Martyn in the ‘Saintly Cambridge Anglicans’ window in All Saints’ Church, Cambridge

All Saints’ Church is a wonder of the Gothic Revival in English church architecture and of the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement on interior design. For many years, this was Cambridge’s highest Anglo-Catholic church. But the population of the parish moved out to the big new housing estates, and in 1973 All Saints’ was declared redundant, and was scheduled for demolition.

However, the church was saved at the eleventh hour and was put in the care of the Churches’ Conservation Trust in 1981. Since Easter 2007 the church has been open to the public seven days a week, and the church is used regularly by Westcott House and other theological colleges.

The ‘Saintly Cambridge Anglicans’ window, installed in the church in 1923 by Kempe & Co, has three panels of stained-glass designed by John Lisle honouring three Cambridge saints: the priest poet George Herbert (1593-1633); Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) of Durham, who gave his name to Westcott House; and the pioneering missionary Henry Martyn (1781-1812). Herbert and Westcott were fellows of Trinity College Cambridge, while Martyn was a Fellow of Saint John’s College, which explains why the coat-of-arms of each college is also depicted in the window.

Below the panel depicting George Herbert is an image of Saint Andrew’s Church, Bemerton, the Wiltshire parish church where he was buried, and has the words: “Here George Herbert ministered and beneath the Altar of Bemerton Church was buried A.D. 1632.”

Of course, George Herbert never ministered in All Saints’ Church, and he died in 1633, not in 1632.


Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev’ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos’d of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.

Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodness of the deed.
Neither ought other men’s abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s forti’eth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour’s purity;
Yet we are bid, ‘Be holy ev’n as he,’
In both let’s do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand, and more:
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

Christmas, by George Herbert

Trinity College Cambridge in snow... George Herbert was a student here and later a fellow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The two ‘Christmas’ poems come from Herbert’s collection, The Temple, edited and published by Nicholas Ferrar.

Christmas (I)

All after pleasures as I rid one day,
My horse and I, both tir’d, bodie and minde,
With full crie of affections, quite astray,
I took up in the next inne I could finde,

There when I came, whom found I but my deare,
My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to him, readie there
To be all passengers most sweet relief?

O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
Wrapt in night’s mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:

Furnish & deck my soul, that thou mayst have
A better lodging then a rack or grave.

Christmas (II)

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for thee?
My soul ’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.

The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the day-light houres.

Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.

I will go searching, till I finde a sunne
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.

Then we will sing, shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n his beams sing, and my musick shine.

George Herbert’s poems as hymns

George Herbert’s poems are characterised by a precision of language, a metrical versatility, and an ingenious use of imagery or conceits that was favoured by the metaphysical school of poets. Many of those poems have been adapted as hymns, including ‘King of Glory, King of Peace’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 5th ed, 2000, No 358), ‘Let All the World in Every Corner Sing’ (360), ‘Teach me, my God and King’ (601) and ‘Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life’ (610), and his poetry has been set to music by several composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, Randall Thompson and William Walton.

Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was one of the greatest English composers of the last century and the musical editor of The English Hymnal, which he co-edited with Percy Dearmer. He had a special affinity for Herbert’s poetry, in part because Herbert was also a musician whose works displayed a familiarity with the nature of music. Like Herbert, Vaughan Williams, studied at Trinity College Cambridge, and, curiously, one of Herbert’s successors as Vicar of Bemerton was the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams, the father of Vaughan Williams.

Vaughan Williams retained the title The Call for his setting for the hymn Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life which was first published as the fourth of his Five Mystical Songs in 1911. However, the harmonisations of the version in the Church Hymnal combine the first half of the version in the BBC Songs of Praise (1997) with the second half from the Cambridge Hymnal (1967).

The words of Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life are from Herbert’s poem ‘The Call’ in The Temple. This is essentially a meditation on Christ’s words to the Apostle Thomas: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14: 6). Herbert adds a number of additional allusions and offers real food for thought in the way he develops his theme. Because of the structure of each of the three stanzas, this poem is often described as “a trinity of trinities.”

In 1954, Vaughan Williams composed a cantata, Hodie, also called “On This Day,” using texts from the Gospels, Milton, Hardy, and “Christmas” by George Herbert, among others. Williams uses the second part of this poem, “The Shepherds sing . . .” for the fourth movement of the cantata.

Interpretation by Vaughan Williams

In his poem ‘Obedience,’ George Herbert wrote:

O let thy sacred will
All thy delight in me fulfil!
Let me not think an action mine own way.
But as thy love shall sway,
Refining up the rudder to thy skill.

Vaughan Williams set these words to music in his Five Mystical Songs. Written between 1906 and 1911, this composition sets four poems by Herbert from The Temple, including the first section of ‘Easter’ (lines 1-18), and received its first performance on 14 September 1911, at the Three Choirs’ Festival in Worcester, with Vaughan Williams conducting.

The Five Mystical Songs are among the more successful vocal efforts by Vaughan Williams in the years immediately before World War I. Like Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are fairly direct, but they have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly.

Vaughan William admired George Herbert for his multiple talents and for his understanding of the nature of music. He collected four of Herbert’s poems, splitting the first poem, ‘Easter,’ to serve as the text for both the first and second of the Five Mystical Songs. He set them to music and applied the name ‘Mystical’ to the assemblage, simply because he found George Herbert’s poetry to be rife with that quality.

The songs are generally better served when the optional chorus and orchestra are used, though in the second song a more intimate atmosphere may be preferable.

The first song, ‘Easter,’ shows the poet’s musical proclivities. Beginning with the second verse, Herbert uses a number of musical metaphors in his poetry concerning the passion and death of Christ. As we have seen, he writes:

His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Whatever mystical qualities Vaughan Williams saw here, he did not play it up in his music, for his style in this song is closer to that of his Sea Symphony (1903-1909; revised 1923)., and the overall style comes across as post-Romantic, intimately so in the middle section.

The second song, ‘I got me flowers,’ uses text from the second half of Herbert’s ‘Easter.’ Here again, Vaughan Williams clings to a Romantic approach, though the music is subdued in comparison with the more grandiose ‘Easter.’ The sparse scoring in the orchestral version is largely limited to winds and harp. The one outburst comes at the end when the chorus (or soloist) proclaims: “There is but one, and that one ever.”

The soloist takes a key role in the third song, ‘Love Bade Me Welcome,’ where the chorus has a wholly supporting role – quietly and wordlessly singing the plainsong melody O Sacrum Convivium, while the soloist sings the textual close. This is the longest of the five songs. The text relates a conversation between the poet and Love. The style again recalls that of the Sea Symphony.

The chorus does not feature in the fourth song, ‘The Call,’ the shortest of the songs. It has a mixture of stylistic elements, from the folk-like character of the melody to the Romantic style of the writing to the religious sense of its serenity.

The fifth and final song, ‘Antiphon,’ with its exuberant manner, its ecstatic energy, and its praiseworthy text – “Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing/My God and King” – is sometimes performed on its own as a church anthem for choir and organ: “Let all the world in every corner sing.”

Five Mystical Songs, by Ralph Vaughan Williams:

1, Easter, from George Herbert’s ‘Easter’

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.
Sing his praise without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand,
that thou likewise with him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name, who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is the best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song pleasant and long;
Or since all musick is but three parts vied and multiplied.
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

2, I Got Me Flowers, from the second half of George Herbert’s ‘Easter’

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East.
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

3, Love Bade Me Welcome, from George Herbert’s ‘Love’ (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back.
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

4, The Call, from George Herbert’s ‘The Call’

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

5, Antiphon, from George Herbert’s ‘Antiphon’ (I)

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.
The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither flie;
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.
The Church with psalms must shout,
No doore can keep them out;
But above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.

Select Bibliography:

Justin Lewis-Anthony, If You Meet George Herbert on the road, Kill Him: Radically re-thinking priestly ministry, an exploration of the life of George Herbert as a take-off for a re-evaluation of ministry in the Church of England (London: Mowbray, 2009).
Amy M. Charles, A Life of George Herbert (Cornell University Press, 1977).
The Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, for the Church of Ireland).
Elizabeth Clarke, Theory and Theology in George Herbert’s Poetry: Divinitie, and Poesie, Met (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).
AL Clements, Poetry of Contemplation (New York, 2000).
Tim Cook, The Works of George Herbert (Ware: Wordsworth, 1994).
Edward Darling and Donald Davison (eds), Companion to the Church Hymnal Fifth Edition (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005).
Stanley Fish, The Living Temple: George Herbert and Catechizing (University of California Press, 1978).
Helen Gardner, ‘Introduction,’ The Metaphysical Poets (London, 1972).
Malcolm Guite, Faith Hope and Poetry, Theology and the Poetic Imagination (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).
George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple, or, The Country Parson (London, 1652).
George Herbert, The Temple (London, 1633).
FE Hutchinson (ed), The Works of George Herbert, ed (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941; revised editions, 1945, 1953).
AG Hyde, George Herbert and His Times (1981).
GH Palmer (ed), The English Works of George Herbert (3 vols, 1905).
CA Patrides (ed), The English Poems of George Herbert (1974).
CA Patrides, George Herbert: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983, 1995).
Mary Ellen Rickey, Utmost Art: Complexity in the Verse of George Herbert (University of Kentucky Press, 1966).
Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions, Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002).
Jo Shapcott, George Herbert (London: Faber and Faber, 2006).
Arnold Stein, George Herbert’s Lyrics (1968).
Stanley Stewart, George Herbert (Twayne, 1986).
R Strier, Love Known: Theology and Experience in George Herbert’s Poetry (University of Chicago Press, 1983).
Joseph H. Summers, George Herbert: His Religion and Art (London: Chatto & Windus, 1954).
John Tobin, George Herbert: The Complete Poems (London: Penguin, 2004).
Rosemond Tuve, A Reading of George Herbert (London: Faber and Faber, 1952).
Helen Vendler, The Poetry of George Herbert (Harvard University Press, 1975).
John N Wall, Transformations of the Word: Spenser, Herbert, Vaughan (University of Georgia Press, 1988).
Izaak Walton, The Life of Mr. George Herbert (London, 1670).
Helen Wilcox (ed), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, your blog post has been very useful to me in writing a critical essay of Reader-Response theory and George Herbert's poetry for my British Literature class. This was a very fun blog post to read, thanks for your insights!