Poetry Essay - George Herbert
”Herbert’s poems describe a devotional relationship between man and Creator that is weaker image of human love relationships.”
Explore and compare.
Herbert’s is visibly devout and requires very little in-depth reading to realise this. He’s so focused on the deliverance of a religious message that he even structures the poem’s shape according to the context to the poem, which is obviously indicative of his piousness, but what appears in his poetry is also that despite this devotion, it’s never quite enough.
The most obvious example of a poem wherein the context is delivered not only through language but very powerfully through structure as well is The Altar, where the poem itself is structured eponymously as an altar. Herbert’s rather unusual way of layering his poetry with allusions to what it is about is however undeniably effective in emphasising the clarity of the message and perhaps also as a mean to please God at the same time through the devotion of this literary altar.The Altar, like much of Herbert’s poetry, is rather straightforward and plain and doesn’t contain much complexity, save structurally, and it may be because they are devotional poems to God, and he thus keeps it simple so as to humble himself.
The piety of his poetry is really understandable, given that he was in fact a minister until his death in 1633, even choosing to become a rural vicar in favour of his position as Member of Parliament. Suffering from tuberculosis in his later years, it is clear that he became more aware of his mortality and consequently more devout, which is evident in Virtue.
Virtue is not as dense as The Altar and follows a more conventional type of writing, though Herbert still uses anABAB rhyming scheme and ‘Virtue’ is an Iambic Tetrameter.Typical of Herbert’s style of writing, despite that Iambic pentameter was becoming more popular at the time, being particularly promoted by Shakespeare. The poem follows the path of life. The stanzas start with beautiful and happy things but finishes with a darker, unhappy ending. This was how life was seen at the time. Everything was beautiful when you were young but as time goes by; life loses its colour and becomes more of a hardship. Each stanza starts with ‘sweet’ description of the things which appear beautiful to humans; ‘Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright’ and ‘Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave’. The first line also features a strong use of sibilance, that adds emphasis and force behind the poem and it is also the first line of the poem which provides an opinion of the poem almost immediately. The stanzas are split into 2 moods, of a happy side and a depressing, morose side. This shows the two sides of the poem and life.